Bret Tobalske ( edit )

Associate Professor, Director Field Research Station

Contact Bret Tobalske

Phone: (406) 243 -6631
E-mail Address:
Office : Health Sciences 208 And Field Research Station
Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 10:00 - 12:00, or by appointment


Ph.D. (1994) University of Montana, Organismal Biology and Ecology

M.A. (1991) University of Montana, Zoology

B.S. (1988) Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

Teaching Experience

University of Portland (1999-2008)

Allegheny College (1997-1998)

Research Interests

Comparative Biomechanics, Functional Morphology, Muscle Physiology

Central to the biology of birds, bats, and insects: flight requires more power output than any other form of animal locomotion.   Ultimately, I seek to understand how flight has shaped the ecology and evolution of birds.   I use a variety of  techniques to explore the mechanisms of bird flight in both the laboratory and in the field.  Much of my recent work uses a laser-based system to measure patterns of air flow about the wings and in the wake of flying birds.  I am working to relate these flow dynamics to the in vivo muscle work and power output produced during flight.

Although my primary focus is on bird flight, I am also deeply interested in a wide array of topics in comparative biomechanics and functional morphology. I am open to advising graduate students who wish to study taxa other than birds and other forms of animal performance including swimming and feeding.  I also have an abiding interest in the conservation biology of cavity-nesting birds.


Hedrick,T.L., Tobalske, B.W., Ros, I.G., Warrick, D.R. and Biewener, A.A. (2011). Morphological and kinematic basis of the hummingbird flight stroke: scaling of flight muscle transmission ratio. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. doi:10.1098/rspb.2001.2238

Heers, A.M. Tobalske, B.W. and Dial, K.P. (2011). Ontogeny of lift and drag production in ground birds. J. Exp. Biol., 214, 717-725.

Jackson, B.E., Tobalske, B.W. and Dial, K.P. (2011). The broad range of contractile behaviour of the avian pectoralis: functional and evolutionary implications. J. Exp. Biol.. 214, 2354-2361.

Crandell, K. E. and Tobalske, B.W. (2011). Aerodynamics of tip-reversal upstroke in a revolving pigeon wing. J. Exp. Biol, 214, 1867-1873.

Tobalske, B.W. Biewener, A.A., Warrick, D.R, Hedrick, T.L. and Powers, D.R. (2010). Effects of flight speed upon muscle activity in hummingbirds. J. Exp. Biol. 213, 2515-2523.

Tobalske, B.W., Hearn, J.W.D. and Warrick, D.R. (2009) Aerodynamics of intermittent bounds in flying birds. Exp. Fluids 46, 963-973.



American Ornithologists' Union

Cooper Ornithological Society

Sigma Xi

Society for Experimental Biology

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Field of Study

Comparative Biomechanics

Functional Morphology

International Experience

Fulbright Fellowship (1995), France

Sabbatical (2007), France

Courses Taught

BIO 403 - Vertebrate Design and Evolution