INTEGRATIVE PHYSIOLOGY IN FLUCTUATING ENVIRONMENTS
Global climate change will have a profound effect on the ocean by altering temperature, CO2-acidification, and dissolved oxygen. To accurately characterize how marine organisms will cope with predicted multiple stressors, research must elucidate the physiological mechanisms these organisms use to respond to stressors under ecologically realistic conditions. My passion in research is to develop an integrative framework that probes multiple levels of biological organizations, including enzyme kinetics and whole organism measurements to study how marine organism stretch their physiology to the limit to survive in oscillating environments. I am particularly interested in studying how climate change-induced environmental fluctuations will push the physiological limits of marine animals in the future. My work in the past used enzyme kinetics to characterize the effect of osmotic stress on the intertidal invertebrate Mytilus edulis. Mytilus edulis are osmoconformers and face the unique challenges associated with matching their intracellular osmotic pressure to that of the external fluid environment. Unlike osmoregulators that are equipped with regulatory organs (e.g. kidneys, gills) to homeostatically regulate internal osmotic pressure, osmoconformers use compatible osmolytes to regulate cellular osmotic pressure. My project examined how compatible osmolytes (glycine, betaine, and taurine) and salt (KCl) affect enzyme function in Mytilus edulis.
I am interested in understanding how important metabolic pathway enzymes function in animals experiencing changes in dissolved oxygen (DO), temperature, and salinity. I am particularly interested in the consequences of multiple stressors occurring simultaneously on enzyme activity. In addition to enzyme activity, I have an interest in systems approach using metabolomics to profile the abundance of key metabolites in response to environmental change. The integration of metabolomics with enzyme activity will prove vital to understand how metabolic pathways are altered as organisms experience various environmental stressors. For example, a fish transitioning from saltwater to freshwater will likely experience varied water temperatures while also going through complete phenotypic remodeling to deal with the changing osmotic pressure. As climate change exacerbates these changes, would animals have the capacity to cope? By profiling changes in metabolite abundance and examining critical enzyme parameters such as V-max, substrate-binding affinity, and turnover, I hope to understand the challenges environmental fluctuations pose at the molecular level and how organisms cope with these challenges.