Ecophysiology

We are generally interested in how animals acclimate to changes in environmental conditions. Aquatic environments have large variations in physical and chemical parameters (e.g. temperature, oxygen availability, salinity), which can be either periodic or of a more permanent nature. Our research involves various aquatic model organisms (especially fish) in investigations of how environmental changes cause acute disorders in animal physiology, which trigger compensatory responses that allow physiological acclimation to the changing environment. 

We also study differences in physiological traits between species, which explains how species evolutionarily have developed different tolerances to given environmental conditions. The questions we ask are investigated using a wide variety of techniques, ranging from studies of the whole animal's response over studies at the organ tissue level of cellular and molecular level. We have an extensive collaboration with colleagues both nationally and internationally. Two of our key themes are (1) adaption of hypoxia and (2) acclimation to varying salinity.

Adaption to oxygen shortage (hypoxia) in vertebrates:

  • This involves studies of different physiological mechanisms and processes, including metabolism, respiration, heart function, acid-base balance and blood oxygen carrying properties. The research also examines the physiological role of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO) and its metabolites (nitrite and S-nitriso compounds), which special focus on the species that naturally experience intermittent hypoxia (carp, diving whales) or even tolerate complete absence of oxygen for long periods (crucian carp and freshwater turtles). 

Accplimation of changing salinity:

  • We carry out studies of the basic molecular mechanisms responsible for water and salt balance in aquatic organisms, for example: interaction of NaK-pump, aquaporins and tight junction proteins in the epithelia, which transports water and salt. Our model animals are mainly euryhaline fish that can acclimate between different salinities. We perform both quantitative transcript and protein analyzes and qualitative localization studies using immunoflourescence and high-resolution STED microscopy.
  • The hormonal regulation of water-salt balance - including physiological effects of endocrine disruptors. For instance it is examined how the natural migration of salmonids between the freshwater and the marine environment is affected/disturbed by estrogenic chemicals, and how stickleback osmoregulation is affected by androgenic chemicals.