Kangaroo gait research attracts $434k in ARC funding

University of the Sunshine Coast

A study to understand more about how kangaroos move has attracted major funding to the University of the Sunshine Coast.

The study, led by UniSC Dr Christofer Clemente, will receive $434,000 over three years under a prestigious Discovery Grant from the Australian Research Council announced today.

UniSC Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Ross Young said the research had enormous potential to progress human understanding of ecology and conservation, but also could provide ‘bioinspiration’ for the robots and assistive devices of the future.

“We know that kangaroos are swift, powerful and efficient creatures, but there’s a lot we can still learn about exactly how their bodies move, how they manage their energy and how we might apply that knowledge to other areas,” Professor Young said.

“For example, if a kangaroo can speed up without spending more energy, then perhaps we can mimic that movement in the next generation of bioinspired robots and assistive devices ,” he said.

“It will also provide insights into how energetics, morphology and habitat have shaped the evolution of the species, which could open doors to a range of future ecological, physiological and conservation studies.”

The study team – which includes researchers from The University of Queensland, University of London, KU Leuven and University of Southern California – aims to build 3D musculoskeletal models to understand how muscles and tendons interact, enabling greater distances to be travelled using less energy.

They will also use animal tracking devices and machine-learning tools to quantify movements in the wild.

Dr Clemente has previously led other projects to develop robots that mimic lizard movement, enabling the robots to climb vertically up and down.

Professor Young said the funding recognised UniSC’s growing research presence across projects that contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly towards the goals of Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, as well as Life on Land.

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