Todd Blackledge, PhD



I have loved nature since I was a little kid running around the woods and marshes along the Chesapeake Bay, so it was natural for me to become a biologist. Captivated by questions about how animal behaviors evolve with their ecologies, I discovered the world of spiders and their amazing toolkits of silk. My research now aims to understand how innovations in silk properties coevolve with the functions of webs to promote spider diversification. The spider silk system provides an ideal opportunity to explore evolutionary interactions between genes and protein structure, biomaterial properties, and behavioral performance.

Spiders also offer a rich palette of inspiration to drive biomimetic innovation. Spiders produce toolkits of silks that include the toughest fibers in nature and unique, environmentally responsive glues from the same basic building blocks as hair and skin. Thus, my research leverages the university’s unique expertise in materials science and biomimicry to help unlock the secrets of this “ultimate in green chemistry”.