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Ecological & Evolutionary Physiology

Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology focuses on the effects of a number of environmental factors, notably temperature, salinity, pH, and oxygen levels, on the physiology of diverse types of organisms (animals, plants, bacteria and archaea). Basic principles of physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology are presented in the context of ecological and evolutionary processes.  Two primary questions form the framework for these analyses.  First, how does a particular environmental factor affect a broad suite of physiological functions—what is the fundamental nature of environmental stress at the physiological level?  Second, how do organisms adapt to environmental stress through long-term evolutionary adaptation involving genetic change and short-term phenotypic acclimations during an individual’s lifetime?  What physiological traits are strongly conserved, and how is this conservation achieved through alterations in macromolecular structures (e.g., protein amino acid sequence), adjustments in the composition of the intracellular milieu (pH and osmotic solutes), and modulation of gene expression? 

A major theme running through the class is the effect of global change on organisms and the ecosystems in which they are embedded.  Using physiological analysis, can we predict how vulnerable different species are to global warming, decreasing oxygen concentrations in the seas, and ocean acidification? Can we predict "winners" and "losers" in the context of global change?  Primary emphasis is on marine organisms, but the principles developed during the course apply as well to non-marine species, both terrestrial and aquatic.

Suggested Background Courses:  the Biology Core. 
This is a Biology "menu" course. 
Professor Somero
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