About me

Dr. Glenna Clifton is an Assistant Professor at the University of Portland, located in Portland, OR. Combining approaches from multiple disciplines, Dr. Clifton aims to understand how animals move. Current projects in the Clifton lab include: analyzing how crabs walk over uneven terrain, exposing wild lady beetles to high temperatures to measure the impact on walking performance, relating evolutionary patterns in webbed foot anatomy to bird swimming ability, and comparing how heel-landing technique influences small ballet jumps.

research photos

Before joining UP, Dr. Clifton completed a postdoctoral fellowship in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in the lab of Nicholas Gravish. At UCSD, she combined field experiments with deep learning based tracking of large video datasets to understand how ants and cockroaches adjust walking to negotiate uneven terrain. After starting her career with a B.A. in physics, Dr. Clifton received her Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in the lab of Andrew Biewener, where she studied the anatomical patterns and paddling motions of foot-based swimming birds, including grebes and loons. Dr. Clifton has received several grants and awards to support her research with the aim of inspiring new robotic designs and understanding ecological and evolutionary patterns in animal diversity.

As an educator, Dr. Clifton strives to encourage scientific thinking and an appreciation for the complexity of nature. Dr. Clifton also co-founded the “What is a Scientist?” outreach program, organizing over ninety interactive classroom visits with scientists to show middle school students that science is exploratory, trustworthy, and fun. In her free time, Dr. Clifton continues to freelance as a professionally trained ballet dancer. She also loves biking, baking, and hiking with her dog, Loona.

Join the lab !

Are you an undergraduate student looking for to experience scientific research, with interests in biomechanics, morphology, evolution, physics, coding, or videography? Click on the Info for Students tab to learn about joining the lab.

Recommendation Letters

If you would like to request a recommendation letter from Dr. Clifton, please email to schedule a meeting. If Dr. Clifton thinks she can write you a strong letter, you will be asked to fill out this google form.