university seal
university seal


Laura Thompson – PhD Student, Marine Sciences; BSc Marine & Freshwater Biology, University of London, UK

Project Title: Marine mammal diving behavior & health
Advisors: Tracy Romano, J. Evan Ward


Summary: Many challenges occur during diving, such as increased hydrostatic pressure, decreased temperature and decreased oxygen availability (breath-hold diving), the impact of which can alter immune function and lead to injury and disease in humans. Marine mammals have undergone evolutionary adaptations for life in the seas, including repeated and extended dives to great depth. While many aspects of their diving physiology have been the focus of extensive research, little is known about their biochemical adaptations, and there are currently no published reports on immune function during diving in marine mammals. I am interested in evaluating cellular immune function in response to changes in pressure, changes in temperature and hypoxia in marine mammals and humans in order to identify cellular adaptations which allow marine mammals to be less susceptible to dive related illness. Such information is important not only in assessing the impact of anthropogenic activities on marine mammal health, but could also provide targets for medical research concerned with treatment and prevention of dive related pathologies in humans.