One of the planet’s most impressive athletic feats is the high altitude migration of bar-headed geese over the Himalayas. Flight is extremely physically demanding, particularly at high altitude because of the reduced availability of oxygen. While bar-headed geese have respiratory systems and skeletal muscles specialized to facilitate oxygen transport, little is known about their cardiovascular system – a vital undertaking, considering the heart’s low oxygen sensitivity. Previous research was also conducted on domesticated bar-headed geese at sea level and does not address potential environmental influences. My research characterizes the cardiorespiratory responses to low oxygen in wild bar-headed geese and related waterfowl at altitude and, by comparing across species and altitudes, seeks to determine the relative genetic and environmental influences. These data will inform our understanding of the cardiorespiratory physiology underlying bar-headed goose migration, and the roles of genetics and environment in cardiorespiratory low oxygen tolerance.
What does it mean to be a Killam Laureate?
Winning a Killam Doctoral Research Scholarship is an honour. I am grateful for this support not only because it has encouraged me about the importance and relevance of my research, but also because it has affirmed my pursuit of doctoral studies as an individual with a wide array of interests both within and outside of the sciences. Being a Killam Laureate has encouraged me to continue striving for research excellence, while also continuing to thrive and develop all facets of my person, from my academic pursuits in the sciences to my interests in music, leadership development, and community outreach. As a Killam Laureate, I desire to complete my graduate research equipped to and in the process of contributing substantially to my field of research, while also using my experience in leadership and community outreach as a catalyst for stimulating thought and action in the sciences.
How has Killam funding been of benefit to you?
The funding from the Killam Doctoral Scholarship will enable me to focus on my research, and will give me the financial freedom to continue pursuing international field research or present at an international conference relevant to my field of research.
Why did you choose to work with the University of British Columbia?
I chose to study at the University of British Columbia because of the world-class caliber of its comparative physiology group and also because of my lab’s research area. I have been fascinated by the migration of bar-headed geese since my undergraduate studies. My supervisor and lab were appealing because of their significant contribution to bar-headed goose research, and their extensive local and international collaborators who have played an integral role in making my research possible. The comparative physiology research group at the University of British Columbia has proved invaluable not only for its high caliber research, but also for its open and collaborative approach to research and discussion. For these reasons, the University of British Columbia has proved an excellent institution at which to pursue my research.