“For a large number of problems there will be some animal of choice, or a few such animals, on which it can be most conveniently studied.” – August Krogh, 1929.
August Krogh penned those words while viewing animals as means to better understanding human physiology, and this notion has permeated the field of comparative physiology ever since.
Science is more nuanced now, and comparative physiology has given birth to evolutionary physiology, and morphed into integrative and systems physiology, while being challenged by the fields of ecology, macro-ecology and even macro physiology.
In our lab, quite simply, we are interested in the animals. How they live, how they survive, how they adapt and respond to their environments, using behaviour or their physiological capacities. We do not study animals for what they tell us about humans, per se, but rather study their responses so that we humans are more responsible stewards. Research into the physiological and behavioural adaptations that allow animals to survive in their natural habitats is an essential element in any evidence-based conservation or management decision that purports to protect animals.
As a result of that, there are quite a number of projects in my lab. In some way, they reflect an interest in how temperature, season, or the environment has altered physiology and behaviour, or how the animal has evolved mechanisms to deal with their environment. Our thinking is influenced by our interest in physiological control or homeostasis of body temperature and metabolism and how these change under different environmental conditions. The Krogh principle (stated above) contributes to the theoretical background to the research in this lab, although the primary focus concerns the proximate and ultimate reasons for why these adaptations exist.
The following areas are highlighted in some detail as they represent the areas of interest (past, present, future) of the lab:
- Evolution of Thermoregulation
- Thermal Imaging and Heat Exchange
- Thermosensory Behaviour
- Thermoregulation in Hypoxia
- Bird Bills as Thermoregulatory Organs
- Hibernation Physiology and Overwintering Ecology
- Thermoregulatory Induced Changes in Skin Reflectance
- Long-Term Monitoring of Salamander Populations: Climate Change Implications
- Alga-Salamander Symbiosis
Research Funding for these projects has been provided by NSERC, PREA, CFI, OIT, Smithsonian Institute, National Geographic Society.