Jim StaplesWestern Science

Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry

My research program aims to understand how the metabolic systems of animals adapt to environmental challenges. In particular I am interested in the strategies used by endothermic animals to deal with cold. When challenged by the cold, most endotherms increase metabolic rate and heat production. While this thermogenesis may help them to maintain fairly high and constant body temperatures, it requires a lot of metabolic fuel at time when food is typically scarce. 

Some small endotherms use an apparently opposite strategy by entering hibernation during the coldest parts of the year. Hibernation involves profound reductions of body temperature and metabolic rate, allowing these animals to survive the entire winter using only the energy stored within their bodies.  We study mitochondrial metabolism in hibernation (using ground squirrels) to better understand the mechanisms of metabolic suppression and potential interactions with temperature and diet.