Alexander R. Gerson, Ph.D.
Integrative Environmental Physiology
Avian Migration Physiology, Avian Heat Tolerance, Animal Energetics
CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS:
1) CLIMATE, MIGRATORY PACE, HABITAT USE AND REFUELING RATE
2) PROTEIN AS A FUEL DURING MIGRATORY FLIGHT
3) HOW IS PROTEIN DEGRADED BY BIRDS DURING MIGRATORY FLIGHT?
I am currently developing a research program dedicated to fully characterizing dehydration induced protein catabolism in migratory birds at the molecular and biochemical level. As previously mentioned, intestine, liver and kidneys are commonly degraded by 50% over a short period of time in many species of birds, yet these birds seem to maintain homeostasis, and continue migration. I plan to test hypotheses aimed at elucidating the mechanisms utilized by migratory birds to control tissue and organ catabolism while maintaining homeostasis at the organismal level.
4) TEMPERATURE, HUMIDITY AND THE USE OF HYPERTHERMIA AS A THERMOREGULATORY STRATEGY
I am currently investigating how birds are able to survive in hot environments where environmental temperature often exceeds body temperature. Under these conditions, birds utilize a suite of thermoregulatory strategies. However, there is much variation among species in type of evaporative strategies used, and this seems to dramatically influence the thermal sensitivity of species, their tolerance of high humidity, and their use of hyper-thermy. Currently, with a number of colleagues, I am assessing the response to heat in numerous species of birds from around the world with the goal of determining how these species will respond to predicted changes climate.
RESEARCH COVERED BY THE POPULAR PRESS:
This week in Science. Trading Protein for water. Volume 333, Number 6048, Issue of 9 September 2011.
Science. Pennisi, E. (2011). Going the Distance. Science. 331 (6016). 395-397.