My students and I study how animals “work”. Animals have to balance a number of competing physiological functions to survive. To name a few, they have to find enough of the right kinds of food to provide the nutrition and energy they need to survive and grow; they have to fight off pathogens; and they have to find mates and provide at least some basic nutrition to their offspring, while also avoiding predators. All of these activities take time and energy which, once spent, is no longer available to spend on something else. Animals are thus perpetually limited by the time and energy they have available to function. To top it off, they have to successfully balance all of these demands within a world in which the climate is changing, habitats are shrinking, and other human impacts, like pollution, are generally increasing.
We are fascinated by how animals deal with all of these challenges, and we seek to understand the mechanisms they use to survive, at molecular, physiological, and ecological levels. Our research has two “real-world” objectives:
Basic Discovery: The remarkably diverse ways that animals solve environmental challenges offers a chance to discover potential therapies and technologies that might be useful for humans, too. For example, animal venoms, hormones, and immune factors have all been developed into medical therapies for humans.
Conservation: Not all species do solve the environmental challenges they face, and these are the ones that are most threatened with extinction. Determining the mechanisms that cause animals to succeed or fail at these challenges is critical to preventing declines in threatened species.
Please click on my “Academic Opportunities” link if you are interested in pursuing postgraduate (PhD) or Honours research in my lab.