Sandy Kawano received a Bachelor’s degree in Evolution and Ecology from the University of California, Davis, where she found her calling for scientific research. Her undergraduate research with Dr. Peter Wainwright got her interested in the functional consequences of different morphologies, and after reading “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin, she became intrigued about the functional morphology and locomotor biomechanics of the water-to-land transition in tetrapod evolution. When reading about the terrestrial adaptations in Tiktaalik, she couldn’t help thinking, “one small push-up for Tiktaalik, one giant leap for tetrapod evolution,” and since then, has sought to understand the sequence of events that led towards the conquest of land.
To further understand the functional capabilities of tetrapodomorphs for moving onto land, Sandy is utilizing biomechanical, paleontological and mathematical techniques through her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at Clemson University, under the advisement of Dr. Rick Blob. Her dissertation uses data for ground reaction forces, kinematics, and morphology to develop a biomechanical model that will allow one to evaluate how fins and limbs differ in terms of weight support and propulsion during terrestrial locomotion in extant taxa. Measurements of the bone geometry of numerous fossil tetrapodomorphs surrounding the water-to-land transition will then be entered into this biomechanical model to estimate a range of possible stresses that the appendicular bones of fossil tetrapodmorphs could have withstood.
Funds from the Estes Memorial Grant will be used to travel to museums, and collect the morphological information from various fossil tetrapodomorphs. Sandy would like to thank the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and the Estes Memorial Grant Committee for this opportunity to incorporate vital paleontological information for her dissertation. Sandy would also like to thank her advisor, Rick Blob, who introduced her to the joys of vertebrate paleontology, and has served as a constant source of inspiration and encouragement.