This fall semester 2006 the Joint Science Department of The Claremont Colleges, the biology departments of Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College, and the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum are very pleased to offer a series of four lectures by world-renowned experts on extreme environments and the physiology and ecology of organisms that inhabit them: Life at the Limits: The Physiology of Extremophiles. Professor Raymond Huey, professor of biology at the University of Washington, will present the first lecture in this series.
High altitude environments such as Everest and K2 in the Himalayas are challenging not only because of low partial pressures of oxygen but also because of temperatures that can plummet to -55°C and winds of over 100 mph. Despite this, the worlds highest mountains are climbed yearly. What factors influence patterns of success and death of Himalayan mountain climbers? Professor Ray Huey will discuss how behavior (e.g. decision to use supplemental oxygen), climber age, and environment (e.g. mountain height) influence the probability of reaching a summit and of surviving the trip back down. The problems facing todays mountaineers may seem to have little in common with animals that lived 250 million years ago. However, professor Huey suggests that high background extinctions during the Late Permian and the subsequent slow recovery of ecosystems may have been due in part to world-wide declines in oxygen levels. Recent data indicate that 240 million years ago, the availability of oxygen at sea level was comparable with that found today at more than 5 km above sea level (about 7,500 ft above the summit of Mt Baldy).
Dr. Huey is the author of well over 130 research publications, book chapters, and reviews. Among his many honors and appointments, he was chosen as a Distinguished Herpetologist by The Herpetologists League in 1991, was President of The American Society of Naturalists in 1993, was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1998-9, and received the Presidents Award (best paper of the year) in 2004 from The American Society of Naturalists.