Dr. Allyson Hindle is an ACCCR researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. She is an animal physiologist who studies the adaptations that allow wild species to thrive in their specific environments, and how physiology constrains their ability to buffer change. She is the field team leader for the Weddell seal project this Fall. This will be her 6th season in Antarctica.
Allyson first traveled to McMurdo Sound in 2005 to work with Weddell seals during her PhD at Texas A&M University, examining physiological constraints that could emerge with advancing age. Subsequent projects have focused on how these Antarctic seals stay warm in different conditions, and what impacts we can predict for ice-obligate seals as ice conditions change globally. Allyson has also worked with Steller sea lions at the Vancouver Aquarium/University of British Columbia, to understand how habitat disruption could affect the diving behavior, health and energetics of this threatened species.
On the biomedical side, identifying key strategies in wild animals that permit survival in extreme environments can highlight novel avenues of exploration toward human therapies. To translate nature’s solutions to treatments for human diseases, it is necessary to find the genetic and molecular basis for adaptive physiologies in the wild. Allyson has used small hibernators as a model to investigate the biochemistry that supports reversible metabolic depression in different tissues, and has been involved in the effort to develop genome resources for a greater number of marine mammals and hibernators. As part of the current Antarctic project, she is collaborating with the Broad Institute Vertebrate Genome Biology group to analyze the newly annotated Weddell seal genome.
At MGH she participates in several collaborations within the ACCCR and the Cardiovascular Research Center. These include bioinformatics analyses of differentially expressed microRNAs and their potential as biomarkers of glaucoma (with Dr. Buys) and cardiovascular disease (with Dr. Scherrer-Crosbie). She is also involved in studies that test the role of hydrogen sulfide in hypoxia tolerance of hibernators and anoxia-tolerant vertebrates such as turtles (with Dr. Ichinose).