Nicholas Burnett

Ecological biomechanics of species interactions

My research examines how predator-prey interactions are governed by each organism's biomechanical traits, and how those traits and species interactions are influenced by environmental stress.

As a model system to study this topic, I use the flexible kelp Egregia menziesii and its invertebrate grazers, which all live in the lower intertidal zone of wave-exposed rocky shores on the west coast of North America. This herbivore-seaweed system (a type of predator-prey system) exists under repeated hydrodynamic forces from waves that threaten to dislodge the herbivores and the seaweed, and potentially alter herbivory. Using a combination of laboratory experiments and field work with physical and computational modeling, I examine (1) the ability of each organism to survive the large hydrodynamic forces, (2) the dynamics of the herbivore-seaweed interactions in wave-driven flow, and (3) the effect of previous herbivory on future interactions of each organism with its fluid environment and with each other. My field work is conducted at sites throughout northern California, including the Bodega Head State Marine Reserve.



  • Ph.D. Program in Integrative Biology (2012 - present): University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
  • B.S. in Biological Sciences (2012): University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC)


  • Burnett, N.P., Villarta, K.A., and Williams, G.A. (2014) Rasping patterns of the high-shore limpet Cellana grata. Journal of Molluscan Studies 80(4): 456-459
  • Burnett, N.P., Seabra, R., de Pirro, M., Wethey, D.S., Woodin, S., Helmuth, B., Zippay, M.L., Sara, G., Monaco, C., and Lima, F.P. (2013) An improved non-invasive method for measuring heartbeat of intertidal animals. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 11: 91-100
  • Lima, F.P., Burnett, N.P., Helmuth, B., Aveni-DeForge, K., Kish, N., and Wethey, D.S. (2011) Monitoring the intertidal environment with bio-mimetic devices. Chapter 18 in Advances in Biomimetics ISBN 978-953-7619-X-X. INTECH publishing.
  • Awards and Fellowships

    • NSF Graduate Research Fellow (2013-2018)
    • NSF Interdisciplinary Graduate Education and Research Trainee (2012-2014): Graduate Program in Bio-inspired Motions Systems Operating in Complex Environments
    • For full CV, please email .