Kelsi Rutledge graduated with her PhD in June, 2023 and aims to work at the intersection of marine biology and physics/engineering. Her dissertation explored the fluid dynamics of chemoreception in stingrays and their relatives (batoid fishes). This research was sponsored by the U.S. Navy (DOD NDSEG).
She is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Caltech with John Dabiri. She is exploring of the utility of biohybrid robotic jellyfish as future ocean monitoring platforms.
Prior research includes the biomechanics and material properties of stingray jaws, the hydrodynamics of swimming in boxfish, the morphology and systematics of guitarfishes, the ecology of oyster reef biodiversity and more. Her research has been covered by Forbes, Spectrum News, WLOS News 13, American Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, UCLA Newsroom, and more.
Kelsi received her BS in Marine Biology and Environmental Science with Honors at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She then obtained her MS in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). And finally her PhD in biology (UCLA) with an interdisciplinary focus.
As you sit on your towel at the beach, letting the tide tickle your toes, you probably aren't thinking about all the critters in those deep blue waters- actually, you probably actively try to avoid thinking about that. And while you may not always see them, they are there (at least ~33,000 species of fishes) and many have been there for millions of years- evolving to the somewhat harsh underwater conditions Ariel so desperately fought to flee. However, fishes are remarkably resilient in many ways, my professor once said "if there's water, there's likely a fish." From the fiery, hot waters under volcanoes to the icy waters of the Antarctic, there's some poor fish swimming around. These different environments and habitats have led to the incredible diversity of our finned-friends, In fact, they are the most species-rich vertebrate (sorry mammals). This diversity in form and function is what I find so interesting, and provides countless research rabbit-holes to fall down. The field I have fallen into is called "functional morphology" which is a broad term that essentially means I get to ask questions like "why does it look that way?" and "what's that for?" You know- very technical stuff. But at the end of the day, it's these simple questions that prove to be challenging and often require cross-disciplinary answers. My research aims to look at fishes through the lens of an engineer with possible applications for new, bioinspired technology. So, become a "part of my world" and join me in my journey of trying to understand our evolutionary ancestor: the fish.