Understanding Environmental Adaptation Via The “Elite Athletes” of The Natural World
Animals that live at high altitudes are among the most resilient in the natural world. Graham Scott, Biology, has spent much of his career trying to understand what it is that makes high altitude animals able to not just survive, but thrive in harsh conditions. In many ways, these animals are the “elite” athletes of the natural world.
As global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, his research can help predict how species that live at both high and low altitudes might fare in the face of climate change. He and his team have been studying deer mice in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and duck species native to the Peruvian Andes to learn more about how the unique physiology of high altitude animals helps them withstand their challenging environments. Understanding more about their adaptions to extreme environments may have important implications – for both human and environmental health as our climate shifts.
Scott, a Canada Research Chair in Comparative and Environmental Physiology, believes that the research can also shed light on high altitude diseases suffered by people around the world. “By trying to understand how animals overcome or avoid suffering these diseases, we’re gaining insight into these conditions,” he says.