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Dolphins, whales part of Michael Phelps' Olympic success

Submitted by Marie Gilbert
Phone: 907-474-7412

12/03/08

Whales, dolphins and a couple of surfer dudes helped Michael Phelps earn eight Olympic gold medals in swimming, according to Terrie M. Williams, a professor of biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Williams will give two animal physiology seminars this week at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. Both are free and open to the public.

"Animal Olympians" will be on Thursday, Dec. 4, from 7-8 p.m. in the Espe Auditorium at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Seating is limited and a reception will follow the seminar.

Williams will present key biological features of marine mammals that allow some to earn the title "fastest athlete in water." She will explain how human athletes, from swimmers to surfers, take advantage of marine mammals' biological tricks to improve their own athletic performance.

Williams will also present "Do carnivores count calories? How environmental perturbation is leading to an energy crisis for large animals" on Friday, Dec. 5, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in Elvey Auditorium on the UAF campus. Seating is limited.

Defining and predicting the direct effect of habitat destruction on wild animals is difficult, yet scientists are making progress, says Williams. She will describe how the study of energetics and animal movements help scientists evaluate animals' physiological demands of finding food and vulnerability to environmental changes.

Williams has studied large mammals for more than 30 years and was director of the Valdez Sea Otter Rescue Center following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. She is the co-founder of the Center for Ocean Health at Long Marine Lab at UCSC.

Williams is the Institute of Arctic Biology and Institute of Marine Science 2008 Irving-Scholander memorial lecturer. The Irving-Scholander Memorial Lecture Series began in 1981 to provide lasting recognition of the scientific contributions of Laurence Irving and Per Scholander. Irving is the namesake of the Irving I and II building at UAF and a pioneer in the field of comparative physiology. Scholander was the driving force behind the research vessel Alpha Helix, which until its retirement in 2006 was part of the Institute of Marine Science.

CONTACT: Marie Gilbert, IAB information officer, at 907-474-7412 or marie.gilbert@uaf.edu.

ON THE WEB: www.iab.uaf.edu