How do physiological processes at the individual scale shape ecological patterns at local and landscape scales? This fundamental question of organismal physiology is central to understanding how animals respond to change. Importantly, the links between the individual and the population are becoming increasingly relevant as science is faced with predicting whether a species may survive or go extinct when challenged by invasive species, emerging diseases, habitat degradation, or climate change. My research program is focused on understanding the integration and feedback between physiological systems and the environment in two groups of large vertebrates: terrestrial herbivores and marine mammals. Utilizing tissue level, whole organism, and landscape scale approaches, I seek to understand the limitations and resilience of these animals to various environmental or anthropogenic disturbances. Below, see a few examples of current or past projects of research centered on this theme.
If you have ever felt exhausted after attending a concert it was not just the late night to blame! Just as talking louder than normal actually costs the concert-goer extra energy, the increasing noise in the oceans may also cause a problem for marine mammals which rely on sound for communication. What are the energetic impacts of increased ocean sound on cetaceans? In this ONR funded research our team has measured the cost of sound production in bottlenose dolphin and compared the costs of different sound types. Currently, we are using these data to model these costs in other cetacean species. NMFS Permit #19590.
Researchers have long been interested in thermoregulation in elephants because of their large body size and their conspiciously large ears. But ears are only part of the story. This research investigated how water use for thermoregulatory purposes can drive landscape level patterns of habitat use and importantly, demonstrates the power of physiological based modeling to predict landscape level patterns.