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University of Bayreuth Centre of International Excellence "Alexander von Humboldt"

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Meet the Grantee: Dmitry Kolomenskiy

How fish swim in large schools - researching animal locomotion from a biomechanical perspective

A fish can save metabolic energy by adhering to a group. During his research stay in Bayreuth, Dr Dmitry Kolomenskiy and his host Professor Jörn Sesterhenn developed a new mathematical model that will allow to estimate those energy savings in a computationally much more efficient way than before.

What are the foci of your joint research funded by the Short Term Grant?

Dmitry Kolomenskiy: Our objective is to better understand how fish swim in large schools. Fish can sense and adapt to the surrounding water currents. Likewise, they can capture the wakes of their neighbors. A fish can save metabolic energy by adhering to a group, and this is confirmed by respirometry data. This suggests that less mechanical energy should be required, although the mechanisms of energy saving turn out to be complex and diverse. We developed a new mathematical model that will allow to estimate those energy savings in a computationally much more efficient way, as compared to the standard methods of the computational fluid dynamics. The problem boiled down to finding optimal locations of the individuals in a school such that, on the average, they consumed less energy. This optimization problem is not easy to solve because it contains hundreds of unknowns. The group of Prof. Sesterhenn has a strong expertise in the methods of numerical optimization in fluid mechanics, and the Short Term Grant has enabled us to implement together the right techniques to reliably solve the optimal school problem.

In what way is your work interdisciplinary, and what does interdisciplinarity mean to you in academic work and life?

DK: We had to remain focused during the Short Term Grant on the specific task that we set, in it was in the realm of numerical optimization and fluid dynamics. But the broader context is interdisciplinary: animal locomotion research and biomechanics in general are situated on the interface between the life sciences and mechanical engineering. Thanks to our colleagues in biology, we can access the necessary input data, and we develop our mechanical engineering type models in the directions useful for the life sciences.

What is in your opinion the future of your field and in what way can research in your field contribute to meeting the urgent challenges of our time?

DK: The animal locomotion research is a small subset of biomechanics, but it has grown remarkably over the past decade and I think it will continue to grow. Modern measurement techniques such as synchronized high-speed cameras provide a great wealth of information in a suitable form for the mechanistical modelling and engineering tools that may be new to the life sciences. I hope that having a greater community of researchers working on the interface between the mechanical engineering and the life sciences will help making engineering solutions friendlier to the life on our planet.

What does international research mobility mean to you?

DK: Science is global. A researcher may produce own beautiful discoveries, but, without scientific exchange and reinterpretation by the greater scientific community, those discoveries simply cannot propagate and become outdated.

And how did the current challenges influence your cooperation?

DK: Almost all discussions are now by videoconferencing. I think this may be fine for cooperation but definitely bad for networking.

The Grantee

Dr. Dmitry Kolomenskiy is a specialist in fluid mechanics. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Aix-Marseille (France), and held academic positions at universities and research institutes in France, Canada and Japan, prior to joining Skoltech. His research topics encompass biolocomotion, vortex dynamics, fluid-solid interaction, and high-performance computing.

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