There is ample evidence that the earth is warming, likely as a result of anthropomorphic activity. Because of this, we have the critical task to identify the characteristics of species that make them either resilient or susceptible to increases in their natural thermal regime. Birds are important bio-indicators of detrimental effects of global climate change. Temperatures not only affect the metabolic rate of birds, but also exert other indirect and direct effects on their behavioral patterns. These effects include earlier breeding, changes in timing of migration, reduction in egg size, lowered breeding success, alterations in population sizes, and changes in population distributions. The implications of climate change for birds have only recently begun to be addressed and there is already compelling evidence some of these animals have been affected by recent climate change.
Birds that experience a broad range of temperatures within one year (so called “resident birds), are of utmost interest in determining what makes a species resilient to temperature fluctuations. Passerines respond to high temperature by substantially increasing their body temperature (Tb) in an attempt to save water initially. Birds will be acclimated to a “control” (ambient temperature) and “heat shocked” (33 °C - well below all species critical thermal minima) temperatures, acutely (9 hrs) and chronically (33 °C for 6 hrs daily for a total of 5 days).
We will also collect pectoral muscle tissue, the tissue responsible for escape behaviors, and explore muscle fiber structure and function, as well as oxidative stress balance in this tissue as body temperatures increase in birds. There is a large body of literature documenting whole-animal-level responses to stress ranging from thermal insults to anthropogenic disturbances. However, the precise molecular mechanisms mediating the stress response in many animals remains elusive. Thus, linking cellular mechanisms to the generalized stress response at higher levels of biological organization is crucial in furthering our understanding of how animals will respond to global climate change.
Students have to be willing and able to handle live animals
Number of Student Researchers
Applications open on 01/15/2017 and close on 02/07/2017