We use a wide variety of common lab and field techniques depending on the project and questions at hand. Below are listed some less typical techniques and devices that we often use in the lab and may be of interest to other researchers:
Work loop technique
We use the work loop technique to measure the mechanical work and power output by insect locomotor muscles. Typically, we use a slightly modified version of Josephson's 1985 adaptation of the work loop technique originally developed for asynchronous muscle (see wiki: here). Our system (see below image) includes an Aurora Scientific ergometer and a Grass analog stimulator, and is controlled by Igor Pro software and a National Instruments data acquisition board which allows for easy customization of the basic protocol.
High speed videography
Locomotion kinematics are studied using high speed videography; we currently have one Edgertronic monochrome high speed camera (link): down to 1/200,000sec exposure, ISO 400-6400, frame rates 10 - 17,791 fps depending on output resolution (1280x1024 - 192x96).
The lab has recently been equipped with a versatile Sable Systems (link) rig allowing studies of metabolic rate (active and resting) and/or substrate utilization (aka fuel use). We use it mainly in studies of insect physiology but it can handle much larger organisms as well. It would take just a bit of creativity to conceive such studies in small mammals and other vertebrates (and plants?). The only thing it won't do is measure metabolic rates in water (e.g. fishes, marine invertebrates).
The lab will receive a thermal camera (link) in the near future (July 2015). Bumblebee videos speak louder than words; these are low-res versions of originals (had to scale them down a bit) shot through saran wrap, showing (left) how bumblebees seemed attracted to a "hot spot" in the back of their cage (created using a heat gun) and the same guys without the hot spot and using a grayscale filter pallette:
Come talk to me if you are interested in using this camera for your research projects!
Another recent addition is our Open Ephys digital multichannel electrophysiology rig (link). It currently uses one Intan Technologies (link) amplifier chip allowing simultaneous recording from 16 differential inputs. You do the math.
To allow examinations of effects of body weight variation on fruitfly leg muscle physiology, we built a custom centrifuge using a treadmill motor connected via a set of pulleys to an inverted lab chair (spins on ball bearings). We have successfully exposed flies to 4-12g for 24-48 hours using this device.
Helmholtz coils magnet field generator
As an alternative to the hypergravity centrifuge (which doesn't work well with larger animals) we are constructing a helmholtz coil setup to generate a homogeneous magnetic field, the strength of which we can control with a power supply. By adding tiny neodymium magnets to insects we can vary the body weight experienced by their leg musculature in a more dynamic and longitudinal fashion.
The lab is home to a Rostock Max v1 delta style 3D printer. At the moment it is mainly printing PLA filament, but can also handle ABS filament. We are currently printing parts needed to upgrade the printer itself, but in the near future we will be printing components used in our (electro-) physiology experiments.