Comparative 
Physiology Lab

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Lab Members

Dr. Andreas Fahlman 


My research interest inspired by an interest in how animals respond physiologically and behaviorally to hypoxia and elevated pressures. I strive to integrate data collected from different levels of biological organization to better understand the organismal response to environmental challenges. I use a combination of theoretical, laboratory, and field studies to test hypotheses: what could be called “modern physiology”.


I believe that the comparative approach is particularly powerful when studying how physiological adaptations contribute to biological fitness, enabling animals t inhabit a wide range of habitats.


My current research uses both mathematical models and experiments to investigate wen and how lungs collapse in marine mammals and if breath-hold diving animals ever experience nitrogen levels that could result in decompression sickness (DCS). If so, this raises the question: to what extent does nitrogen limit dive performance in diving animals?

Dr. Yara Bernaldo De Quiros Mirandao - Post Doc


I am interested in diving physiology both in humans and in marine mammals, although I am specially intrigued by the ability of marine mammals to dive so deep and for so long duration dives. My main interest is "the bends": how marine mammals avoid the bends, but also what could trigger the bends in marine mammals.

In the last years I've focused in developing diagnostic tools to distinguish between putrefaction gases and gases produced by decompression.

Currently I am working in gas solubility in tissues and body size compartments of marine mammals.

Melissa Brewer - PhD Student 


I graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and another in Zoology. I joined the Comparative Physiology Lab at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in the fall of 2011 to study diving physiology in marine mammals. Specifically, I measure the oxygen saturation in the major swimming muscles of the freely deep-diving northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) using an implanted sensor and a novel data logger. My previous projects and experiences include tagging and tracking jaguars (Panthera onca) and maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) in the Brazilian grasslands, sonic-acoustic tagging in age-1 spot (Leiostomus xanthurus) in Neuse River estuaries in North Carolina, and surgically implanting passive integrated transponders (PIT) tags in juvenile spot and mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) in vitro. Using telemetry and cutting-edge technology and techniques in data acquisition to fill in the gaps of knowledge about the lives of animals intrigues me greatly.


Danielle (Dannie) Kleinhenz - Masters Student


My interests are looking at lung functions in diving marine mammals. I am and avid diver and have been for over 14 years. As a kid diving, I always wanted to know why and how marine mammals were able to do the things they did and how it was different from me. I joined the Fahlman lab to do comparative studies of breath hold animals.


Currently I am working on looking at the lung functions in cetaceans. I hypothesize that the structural properties correlate with a species’ ecological foraging niche, i.e. dive duration, dive depth, dive frequency. I will test this hypothesis by performing pulmonary function tests to evaluate the mechanical properties of the respiratory system first in captive bottlenose dolphins to establish a base line, than in stranded animals.


My objectives in this study are to use pulmonary function testing (a complete evaluation of the respiratory system), (1) to determine the levels of gases in the blood vessels adjacent to the lungs, (2) to determine how these gas levels change with increased stress (increased breath holds/dive duration/depth), and to (3) determine a method of calculating field metabolic rates for marine mammals.


Elizabeth Jensen - Undergraduate Student


Although I am currently a student, I also teach, bringing my experience with marine mammals to the class room. I draw from my experience in marine mammal care and behavior from captive marine mammal facilities and institutions ranging from open ocean facilities to the US Navy, to research, educational facilities and human dolphin interactive parks. As curator of marine mammals at a dolphin facility in Mexico, I developed an intensive program to teach students about marine mammal care and training. I strongly believe in a hands approach to learning whenever possible and I bring this opportunity to graduate students at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. Experience is critical for getting an edge in the marine mammal field and I hope to provide students with the tools they need to be successful.