Miami University

Instrumentation Laboratory Project Page

Project: Leaf Penetrometer

Department: Project Dragonfly (Zoology)

Primary Investigator: Dr. Chris Myers

Purpose: The penetrometer was created as part of the NSF-funded “Wild Research”, a partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden to deepen public engagement in science and conservation. The penetrometer is used in a Wild Research Station at the leaf-cutter ant exhibit as part of a broader investigation of foraging behavior. The penetrometer enables the public to measure the toughness of different leaves and to test predictions about how leaf toughness relates to leaf choice by ants.  The challenge was to create an accurate and engaging instrument that could withstand the rigors of thousands of rambunctious Zoo visitors.

IL Comment: Researcher brought concept to IL of finding a way to measure force required to punch holes in leaves.  Final product had to be functional, sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and would be used by patrons from age 7 through adult. Designed and constructed a prototype. After testing and further discussion with researcher, made some small changes and constructed two units to be used in exhibit at Cincinnati Zoo.  

Cost to researcher: Prototype = $342.92     2 Production Units = $554.39

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