Why thermal biology?

Temperature affects many biological processes. It dramatically affects things like the enzymatic rates of cells, the development of embryos, and the optimal functioning of muscles. The flow of heat into and out of organisms is a source of energy gain or loss, thus playing a vital role in energy budgets. All organisms have evolved adaptations around temperature. 

Why is the environment important?

For such an important factor, temperature on the Earth changes a lot - there are daily and annual cycles, and weather patterns that introduce uncertainty. Organisms will lose heat energy in environments colder than themselves, and they will gain heat energy in warmer environments. A major focus of thermal biology is the study of how heat energy is exchanged between organisms and their environments. Things like color, insulation (fur and feathers), and behavior can greatly affect these exchanges.   

What does temperature have to do with evolution?

Evolution selects for organisms that produce more offspring than other members of the same species - this is called biological fitness. Temperature can affect fitness in three major ways: 

  1. The developmental environment. Temperatures that are too cold or too hot during development can have disastrous effects, but in general warmer temperatures speed up development so that offspring can hatch earlier and access resources. 
  2. Performance. Muscles, digestion, and other metabolic process all have an optimal temperature. For example, cold muscles are typically slower than warmer muscles, which can affect how successfully an animal hunts. 
  3. The energy budget. Reproduction costs energy, and taking energy from the environment in the form of heat can free up energy from food for reproduction. 

Urban Biology

Living in New York City is fascinating from a biological perspective as well as a cultural one. Urban environments have unique thermal and energetic challenges. The increased parasite load costs energy, but the protection from exposure to the environment can help balance these costs. 

Obesity and Inflammation

The energetic regulation of the immune system and the pathways that tie it to inflammation and fever are just beginning to be explored. 


Stress causes an animal to mobilize energy stores to deal with the stressor. These energy pathways tie into pathways for inflammation, obesity, and thermoregulation.  


I am interested in how learning works at a neural level, the theoretical underpinnings of teaching, and the applicability of animal models of learning and its evolution. 


Learning can only be known through an assessment, which raises deep questions about what learning actually is and how we can know if it has occurred. Even an assessment that seems straight forward can have theoretical underpinnings. 


The classroom provides the real test of theory, and teaching without theory is unskilled. I am interested in how to successfully forge new teaching strategies by combining theory and practice.