Dr. Birgitte McDonald

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Research Interests

  • physiology
  • behavioral ecology
  • adaptation
  • diving physiology
  • foraging

Other Scholars in Vertebrate Ecology


As a physiological and behavioral ecologist, Birgitte investigates adaptations that allow animals to survive in extreme environments. Marine mammals and birds provide an ideal study system to investigate how animals deal with extreme conditions because of their large size variation, geographic distribution and physiological challenges they face on a daily basis including hypoxia, extreme temperatures, and fasting. Understanding the mechanisms that allow an organism to interact and survive in its environment is crucial for predicting, and potentially mitigating, their response to climate change. Her research program focuses on two broad areas of research: 1) determining the diving capacity of breath-hold divers and understanding the underlying mechanisms, and 2) determining the energetic requirements of foraging and reproduction to better understand energy allocation, physiological trade-offs, and the organism’s role in the ecosystem.

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