University of Montana Flight Lab
Flight Laboratory




Kenneth Paul Dial



Division of Biological Sciences                                

The University of Montana                                         

Missoula, MT 59812


Phone: (406) 243-6631, -6875                                   

Fax: (406) 243-4184                                                  



Education and Training:


Post-Doctoral Fellow Harvard University (F.A. Jenkins, Jr. and G.E. Goslow, Jr.)

Ph.D. 1984 (Zoology) Northern Arizona University (Terry A. Vaughan, advisor)

M.S. 1978 (Biology) California State Univ Long Beach (David Huckaby, advisor)

B.S. 1976 (Biology) Loyola Marymount University


Current Appointments:


Professor (1998)

Research Associate, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University (1988)


Other Appointments:

Director, University of Montana's Field Research Station at Fort Missoula (1998-2008)

Director, Organismal Biology and Ecology, Graduate Program, Div. Biol. Sci. (2000-2003)

Host / Consultant, Discovery Communication's Animal Planet nature series, "All Bird TV" (26 episodes) 1996-1999.

Board of Directors, H.B. Drollinger Commercial Real Estate Co., Los Angeles, California. (1996-present

Academic Appointments:

1995-2000 Associate Editor, The Auk

1991-1997 Associate Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, Univ. Montana

1988-1991 Assistant Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, Univ. Montana

1986-1988 Post-doctoral Fellow, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard Univ

1985-1986 Post-doctoral Fellow, Dept. Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona Univ.

1981-1985 Instructor, Dept. Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona Univ.

1980-1981 Research Assistant, Dept. Biological Sciences Northern Arizona Univ.

1977-1979 Teaching Assistant, Dept. Biology, California State Univ. Long Beach

Recent Awards:

(2002) President's Distinguished Faculty Award (research and teaching resulting

            in international recognition for The University of Montana) George and

            Jane Dennison Award.

(2002) Distinguished Scholar Award. The University of Montana


Research Funding: (past 10 years -- 22 years continuous NSF funding)

2004-2007 NSF IBN 0417176.  Ontogeny and evolution of avian locomotion: forelimb and hindlimb mechanics.                                                       ($378,000)

2000-2004 NSF IBN-0082075.  Studies in avian flight: Scaling of mechanical power output and muscle efficiency.                                                       ($383,232)

2000-2001 NSF BFS&M-0084365, Central Computer Network for UM Field Research  Station at Fort Missoula,                                                      video editing, 3-D animation, data acquisition units (co-PI's with Greene, Hutto,                                                        Martin) ($76,714)

2000-2001 DARPA: Ravin: Robotic Aerial vehicle inspired by nature. (co-PI: J. McMichael) seed grant                                                                         ($200,000)

1995-2000 NSF IBN-9507503 Comparative experimental studies in avian flight:  mechanical power output,                                                       neuromuscular control, 3-D kinematics, and flight behavior. ($337,000)

1995-1997 Murdock Foundation, Partners in Science ($14,000)

1992-1995 NSF IBN-9211393.  Neuromuscular control and biomechanics of avian locomotion: Wing and tail                                                       coordination in maneuvering flight. ($201,482)

1993-2000 NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates ($39,000)

1992 Murdock Foundation. C.T. Leonard (PI), D. Boggs, E. Greene, D. Kilgore. Three-dimensional motion                                                      analysis equipment, ($248,500).

1992-1994 NSF IBN-9206673 ( D.F. Boggs, co-PI). Impact of flight kinematics on respiration in birds.                                                                    ($185,068)


Dial, K.P. and T.A. Vaughan. 1987. Opportunistic predation on alate termites in Kenya. Biotropica 19:185-187.

Dial, K.P. 1987. Reproductive behavior of the Dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma      fuscipes). So. Calif. Acad. Sci. Bull. 86:153-157.

Dial, K.P., S.R. Kaplan, G.E. Goslow, Jr., and F.A. Jenkins, Jr. 1987. Structure and neural control of the pectoralis in pigeons: Implications for flight mechanics. Anat. Record 218:284-287.

Dial, K.P., and J.M. Marzluff. 1988. Are the smallest organisms the most diverse?   Ecology 69:1620-1624.

Dial, K.P., S.R. Kaplan, G.E. Goslow, Jr., and F.A. Jenkins, Jr. 1988. A functional analysis of the primary upstroke and downstroke muscles in the Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia) during flight. J. Exp. Biol., 134:1-16.

Dial, K.P. 1988. Three sympatric species of Neotoma: dietary specialization and co-existence. Oecologia 76:531-537.

Jenkins, F.A. Jr., K.P. Dial, and G.E. Goslow, Jr. 1988. A cineradiographic analysis of bird flight: The wishbone in starlings is a spring. Science 241:1495-1498.

Goslow, Jr., G.E., K.P. Dial, and F.A. Jenkins, Jr. 1989. The avian shoulder: An experimental approach. Amer. Zool. 29:287-301.

Dial, K.P., and J.M. Marzluff. 1989. Nonrandom diversification within taxonomic assemblages. Systematic Zoology. 38:26-37.

Dial, K.P. and N.J. Czaplewski. 1990. Do woodrat middens accurately represent the animals' environments and diets? The Woodhouse Mesa study. In Fossil packrat middens: the last 40,000 years of biotic change in the arid West (eds. martin. P.S.,   T. Van Devender, J. Betancourt). Univ. Arizona Press.

Goslow, G.E., Jr., K.P. Dial, and F.A. Jenkins, Jr. 1990. Bird flight: Insights and complications. Bioscience 40:108-115.

Goslow, G.E. Jr., and K.P. Dial. 1990. Active stretch shortening contractions of the m. pectoralis in the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris): Evidence from electromyography and contractile properties. Int. Congr. Vert. Morphol.,   Netherlands J. Zoology 49:106-114.

Dial, K.P., G.E. Goslow, Jr., and F.A. Jenkins, Jr. 1991. The functional anatomy of the shoulder of the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). J. Morphology 207:327-344.

Marzluff, J.M., and K.P. Dial. 1991. Does social organization influence diversification? Am. Midl. Nat. 125:126-134.

Marzluff, J.M. and K.P. Dial. 1991. Life history correlates of taxonomic diversity. Ecology 72:428-439.

Dial, K.P. 1992. Activity patterns of the wing muscles of the pigeon (Columba livia) during different modes of flight. J. Exp. Zool. 262:357-373.

Biewener, A.A., K.P. Dial, and G.E. Goslow, Jr. 1992. Pectoralis muscle force and power output during flight in the starling. J. Exp. Biol. 164:1-18.

Dial, K.P. 1993. Avian forelimb muscles and nonsteady flight: can birds fly without using the muscles in their wings? Auk 109:874-885.

Dial, K.P. and A.A. Biewener. 1993. Pectoralis muscle force and power output during different modes of flight in pigeons (Columba livia). J. Exp. Biol. 176:31-54.

Boggs, D.F. and K.P. Dial. 1993. Neuromuscular organization and regional EMG activity of the pectoralis in the pigeon. J. Morph. 218: 43-57.

Gatesy, S.M. and K.P. Dial. 1993. Tail muscle activity patterns in walking and flying pigeons (Columba livia). J. Exp. Biol. 176:55-76.

Tobalske, B.W. and K.P. Dial. 1994. Neuromuscular control and kinematics of  intermittent flight in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus). J. Exp. Biol. 187:1-      18.

Dial, K.P. 1994. An inside look at how birds fly: experimental studies of the internal and external processes controlling flight. Proc. Soc. Exp. Test Pilots. 38:1-13.

Biewener, A.A. and K.P. Dial. 1995. In vivo strain in the humerus of pigeons (Columba livia) during flight. J. Morph. 225:61-75

Tobalske, B.W. and K.P. Dial. 1996. Flight kinematics of Black-billed magpies and pigeons over a wide range of speeds. J. Exp. Biol. 199:263-280.

Gatesy, S.M. and K.P. Dial. 1996. Locomotor modules and the evolution of avian flight. Evolution 50:331-340.

Gatesy, S.M. and K.P. Dial. 1996. From frond to fan: Archaeopteryx and the evolution of short-tailed birds. Evolution 50:2037-2048.

Tobalske, B.W., N.E. Olson, and K.P. Dial. 1997. The flight style of the Black-billed magpie: Variation in wing kinematics, neuromuscular control and muscle composition.  J. Exp. Zool. 279:313-329.

Boggs, D.F., F.A. Jenkins, Jr. and K.P. Dial. 1997. The effects of the wingbeat cycle on respiration in Black-billed Magpies (Pica pica). J. Exp. Biol. 200:1403-1412.

Dial, K.P. (1997) "Into Africa" by Craig Packer. Review. J. Wildlife Biology

Boggs, D.F., J. J. Seveyka, D.L. Kilgore, and K.P. Dial. 1997. Coordination of respiratory cycles with wingbeat cycles in the Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica). J. Exp. Biol. 200:1413-1420.

Dial, K.P., A.A. Biewener, B.W. Tobalske and D.R. Warrick. 1997. Mechanical power output of bird flight. Nature 390:67-70

Warrick, D. R., K. P. Dial, and A. A. Biewener. 1998. Asymmetrical force production in the slow maneuvering flight of pigeons. Auk 115: 916-928

Warrick, D. R. and K. P. Dial. 1998.  Kinematic, aerodynamic, and anatomical mechanisms in the slow, maneuvering flight of  pigeons. J. Exp. Biol. 201: 655-672.

Tobalske, B.W., W. Peacock, and K.P. Dial. 1999.  Kinematics of flap-bounding flight in the zebra finch over a wide range of speeds. J. Exp. Biol. 202:1725-1739.

Tobalske, B.W. and K.P. Dial. 2000.  Effects of body size on take-off flight performance in the Pheasianidae (Aves). J. Exp. Biol. 203:3319-3332.

Williamson, M.R., K.P. Dial, and A.A. Biewener. 2001. Pectoralis muscle performance during ascending and slow level flight in mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). J. Exp. Biol., 204 (3) 2001:495-507. 

Warrick, D.R., B.W. Tobalske, A.A. Biewener & K.P. Dial. 2002.  Sonomicrometry and kinematic estimates of the mechanical power of bird flight.  Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool., Harvard University 257-268.

Warrick, D.R., M.W. Bundle and K.P.  Dial.  2002. Bird maneuvering flight: Blurred bodies, clear heads. Soc. Integr. & Comp. Biol. (Am. Zool.) 42:141-148.

Tobalske, B.W., T.L. Hedrick, K.P. Dial & A.A. Biewener. 2003. Comparative power curves in bird flight. Nature 421:363-366.

Dial, K.P.  2003. Wing-assisted incline running and the evolution of flight.  Science 299:402-404.

Bundle, M.W. and K.P. Dial.  2003.  Mechanics of wing-assisted incline running.  J. Exp. Biol., 206:4553-4564.

Dial, K.P. 2003.  Evolution of avian locomotion: Correlates of body size, reproductive biology, flight style, development and the origin of flapping flight.  Auk 120:941-952.

Padian, K. and K. P. Dial. 2005. Could the "Four Winged" Dinosaurs Fly?  Nature: 438: E3-5.

Dial, K.P., R. Randall, and T.R. Dial. 2006. What use is half a wing in the evolution of flapping flight? BioScience 56: 437-445.


Dial, K.P. 2006.Patterns among avian flight style, nesting biology, development, body size, and locomotor modularity. Acta Zoologica Sinica 52: 502-504.

Bundle, M.W., K.S. Hansen and K.P. Dial (in press).  A new perspective on the energetics and kinematics of two species of parrots (Family Psittacidae): Budgerigars and Cockatiels (J. Exp. Biol).

Tobalske, B.W. and K.P. Dial. (in press) Aerodynamics of wing-assisted incline running. J. Exp. Biol.


Published Abstracts (last five years):

Tobalske, B.W. and K.P. Dial. 1997. Scaling of flight escape performance in Galliform birds Soc. Integrative and Comp. Biol. 35A

Boggs, D.F., R.W. Bavis, D.L. Kilgore, Jr. P.M. Schmitt and K.P. Dial. 1997. Hypoxia does not alter breathing pattern in flying magpies (Pica pica). FASEB

Dial, K.P. 1997. Experimental studies in avian flight: The importance of studying a range of behaviors. Intern. Vert. Morph. Congress, Bristol, England.Dial, K.P. and B.W. Tobalske.  1998.  Scaling of muscle strain in Galliform birds. SICB.   Am Zool., 37A.Dial, K.P., D.R. Warrick, B.W. Tobalske, and A.A. Biewener.  1999.  Power output of magpies: estimates of humeral excursion via sonomicrometry and wing kinematics. SICB. Am. Zool., 38:523A.

Dial, K.P. 2001  On the origin and ontogeny of avian flight: Wing-assisted vertical running. SICB. Am. Zool., 40:22.3A.

Bundle, M.W. and K.P. Dial.  2001. The metabolic cost of flight in budgies: Revisiting an outlier. SICB Am. Zool., 40:22.4A.

Dial, K.P., D.R. Warrick, and M.W. Bundle. 2001.   Stability and maneuverability in avian flight: Keeping a steady head with a thrashing body and a twisted neck. S11.7A.

Dial, K.P. 2001.  Avian flight: New perspectives in flight mechanics and morphing. NASA, Langley Field, Virginia

Dial, K.P. 2001.  On the origin and ontogeny of avian flight: Wing-assisted vertical running.  AOU, Seattle, WA.

Dial, K.P. 2001.  On the origin and ontogeny of avian flight: Wing-assisted incline to vertical running. Soc. Vert. Paleo. Bozeman, MT

Bundle, W.M. & K.P. Dial. 2002. Changes in Flight Morphology Influence the Shape of the Avian Power Curve. World Congr. Biomech. Calgary

Dial, K.P. 2002 Avian locomotor modules: Providing insight on the origin of flight, life history and nesting biology, In: Morphological Integration and Modularity, IOC Beijing.

Dial, K.P. 2003. Wing-assisted incline running: Accelerometer and force-plate data. SICB, Toronto

Dial, K.P. 2005. Evolution of avian flight: WAIR in Australia. AOU Meetings, Santa Barbara

Dial, K.P. and B.W. Tobalske  2006.  Flow dynamics (DPIV) of Wing-assisted Incline Running and Vertical Flight in Chukars. Soc. Int. Comp. Biol 45:467.

Jackson, B.E., Dial, K.P. 2005.  Allometry of avian flight performance: contribution of legs and wings during maximal burst take-off and vertical flight. Soc. Int. Comp. Biol. 45(6): 955.

Jackson, B.E., Dial, K.P.  2006.  Allometry of avian flight performance: behavioral consequences of body size. Oral Presentation.  43rd Annual Meeting of the Animal Behavior Society (Snowbird, UT)

Jackson, B.E. and K.P. Dial. 2005.  The biomechanics of the Napoleon complex of little birds. AOU Meetings, Santa Barbara



Graduate Student Advisees:

Bret Tobalske                          Cassie Shigeoka                      Brandon Jackson

Nathan Olson                           Matthew Bundle                      Paolo Segre

Douglas Warrick                     Caleb Putnam

Jerred Seveyka                        Heather Davis

Ashley Heers


Postdoctoral Fellows  [current position]:

Dr. Stephen M. Gatesy [Associate Professor, Brown Univ.]

Dr. Penny S. Reynolds [Associate Professor, University of Richmond, Virginia]

Dr. Bret Tobalske [Assistant Professor, University of Portland]

Dr. Douglas R. Warrick [Assistant Professor, Oregon State University]


Professional Societies:


American Society of Mammalogists (1976)

Ecological Society of America (1977)

American Ornithological Union (1977)

Cooper Ornithological Society (1977)

Society for the Study of Evolution (1978)

American Society of Zoologists (1984)

The Association for Tropical Biology (1985)

Phi Kappi Phi (1985)

Sigma Xi (1989)

American Society of Anatomists (1989)

Society of Experimental Biologists (1995)


Manuscript referee for the following journals:

American Zoologist (SICB)                Auk

Amer. Naturalist                                  Evolution

Condor                                                Ecology

J. Comp. Physiol. & Biochem             J. Avian Biology

J. Experimental  Biology                     J. Experimental Zoology

Nature                                                 Science


Teaching Program:

Vertebrate Design and Locomotion (graduate)

Comparative Vertebrate Morphology (undergraduate)

Field Biology of East Africa (Field course in Tanzania/Kenya) (graduate)

Life History, Scaling, and Biogeography (graduate)

Human Anatomy and Physiology (undergraduate)

Allometry (graduate)

Evolutionary Ecology and Biogeography (graduate)

Readings in Morphology, Physiology, and Ecology (graduate)

Techniques in Experimental Biology (graduate)

Ecological Morphology (graduate)


Miscellaneous Information:

--Pilot: (1981): ATP, multiengine-, instrument-, and commercial- rated, jet pilot

--Recreational activities: fly-fishing, flying aircraft, blues/jazz guitar, choral music, golf, tennis, down-hill skiing, scuba diving, mountain biking
-- Research program recently highlighted by the popular media: U.S. News and World Report (17 Dec. 2001), Scientific American (Jan. 2002), Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine (July 2000), Animal Planet (26 programs hosted), Discovery Magazine (television), Scientific American Frontiers, NOVA, Chronkie/Ward Productions, Survival Anglia, 2003: NBC-Discovery News, CNN, Discovery Communications, NPR (All Things Considered), Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), BBC, CBC, Natl. Geo., NYTimes, London Times, LATimes, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wash. Post, UPI, AP, NSF website, MSNBC, BBC Website



   I continue to focus on the ontogenetic development, neuromuscular control, skeletal biomechanics, mechanical power production, metabolic energy costs, limb, tail and body kinematics, and flight styles associated with the ecology of avian flight.  In an effort to communicate outside the college classroom, I developed and hosted twenty-eight 30-minute television programs for Discovery Communication's Animal Planet focusing on avian biology and evolution. This program continues to air reaching a world-wide audience of over 100 million.  In addition, I have been fortunate to have my flight research highlighted on many popular scientific television programs (NOVA, PBS, BBC, Discovery Magazine, Scientific American Frontiers, National Geographic, and other independent film makers) as well as public museums (e.g., British Natural History Museum, Museum of Science, Boston, Yale and Berkeley public museums).  In these efforts, I have attempted to impress upon the layperson an understanding of the utility of science from broad perspectives (functional morphology, ecology, behavior, paleontology, neurobiology, and evolutionary biology).  We have consistently had 3-4 undergraduates, predominately women, work in our lab each semester.  My funded research has always represented a fundamentally collaborative effort with experts in: neuromuscular control, skeletal kinematics, modeling, animation, paleontology, and life history biology.  Initially trained as an ecologist, yet engaged in studies within functional experimental morphology (muscular activity, skeletal movement, mechanical power-output, growth and development), my current research involves collaboration with several experts in diverse areas of biology (paleontology, biomechanics, physiology).

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