Cool Ocean, Hot Bed of Evolution - The broad purpose of my research program is to understand evolutionary cold adaptation in polar fishes. We come to Antarctica as part of this research because the Southern Ocean is truly a natural laboratory, where the organisms confined within its freezing realm must evolve adaptations to overcome unrelenting challenges of freezing temperatures and icy conditions to stay alive.  One of our study approach is to decode what changed in the genome of Antarctic notothenioid fishes over evolutionary time, enabling them to thrive in the world’s coldest marine water.  To this end, we have recently finished sequencing the genome of the giant Antarctic toothfish, a model for the cold adapted Antarctic notothenioids and an icon of the animal fauna of the Southern Ocean.   To help make sense of the genome data, one of our goals this field season is to catch a number of Antarctic toothfish in McMurdo Sound (which had become increasingly difficult due to commercial fishing in the Ross Sea) so we can take a comprehensive set of tissues to generate the sequences of the expressed genes.  Another goal is to conduct both lab and field studies to understand the complex relationship between the protective antifreeze proteins in the Antarctic notothenioids and ice crystals that they act on to remove harm, using experimental tests and in real world McMurdo Sound environments. A third goal is to investigate if these highly cold-specialized fishes can endure and survive heat challenges, how resilient they may be, which may inform us of their survival prospects in the event of global climate change.


I am a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  I have been coming to McMurdo Station, Antarctica to do research since 1984.  It’s a lot of years but the wondrous polar landscape and the amazing ability of polar organisms to make a living on this harsh continent never cease to amaze me.


Department of Animal Biology

School of Integrative Biology

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

515 Morrill Hall

505 South Goodwin Ave.

Urbana, IL  61801


Office phone:  217/ 333-2832

Fax:  217/ 333-1133