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Wes Dowd

Wes Dowd

Field of Study: Environmental physiology of marine animals
Title: Associate Professor
Degrees: Ph.D., Ecology (Physiological Ecology), University of California, Davis; M.S. Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Homepage: Homepage/Lab Web Site Link
Google Scholar:  Google Scholar
Office: 107 Heald Hall
Phone: 509-335-8122
Fax: nan
Mailing Address: School of Biological Sciences
Washington State University
PO Box 644236
Pullman,WA 99164-4236


The overarching research goal of the Dowd laboratory is to understand the interactions between environmental variation and physiological variation. Current models include rocky intertidal zone mussels (in the genus Mytilus) and tidepool copepods (Tigriopus californicus), focusing on small-scale spatial and temporal environmental variation and its relationship to inter-individual and inter-species differences in physiological phenomena such as thermal tolerance, antioxidant capacity, and measures of performance (growth/fecundity). We are particularly interested in potential biochemical mediators of cross-talk between responses to multiple environmental stressors (e.g., salinity, temperature, oxygen, food availability), as well as the broader ecological and evolutionary consequences of these mechanisms. We work in the laboratory and in dynamic coastal habitats.

We have two principal ongoing lines of research:

1. The causes and consequences of micro-scale variation in body temperature among neighboring intertidal mussels, Mytilus californianus. We work to understand both the patterns of inter-individual variation in body temperature as well as the physiological correlates of this variation. Analyses focus on traits at multiple levels of organization, from whole-organism (e.g., survival, growth) to tissue biochemistry (e.g., antioxidant capacities) to patterns of gene and protein expression (e.g., transcriptomics and proteomics).

2. The interactive effects of multiple environmental stressors on physiology and performance of the splashpool copepod Tigriopus californicus, an animal whose habitat varies in remarkable – and often unpredictable – fashion in salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH. We aim to gain a better understanding of the ways in which present-day patterns of variation in multiple environmental parameters influence organismal physiology. This is an important prerequisite for forecasting the physiological effects of likely future environmental scenarios, in which we expect more than one environmental parameter to change. Parallel work examines the mechanisms by which these factors interact.

I will continue to build my laboratory over the coming years, but I expect to accept no more than one graduate student per year. Please contact me if you find our work exciting; I am happy to discuss opportunities.

Representative Publications:

  • Dinh, K. V., Cuevas-Sanchez, A. Y., Buehl, K. S., Moeser, E. A., & Dowd, W. W. (2020) Heat tolerance and thermal preference of the copepod Tigriopus californicus are insensitive to ecologically relevant dissolved oxygen levels. Sci. Rep. 10:18885.
  • Dowd, W. W., and M. W. Denny. 2020. A series of unfortunate events: Characterizing the contingent nature of physiological extremes using long-term environmental records. Proc. R. Soc. B. 287:20192333
  • Dowd, W. W., and A. G. Jimenez. In press. High-shore mussels, Mytilus californianus, have larger muscle fibers with lower aerobic capacities than low-shore con-specifics. Mar. Biol.
  • Gleason, L. U., Strand, E., Hizon, B., and W. W. Dowd. 2018. Plasticity of thermal tolerance and its relationship with growth rate in juvenile mussels (Mytilus californianus). Proc. R. Soc. B. 285: 20172617.
  • Gleason, L. U., Miller, L. P., Winnikoff, J., Somero, G. N., Yancey, P. H., and W. W. Dowd. 2017. Thermal history and gape of individual Mytilus californianus correlate with oxidative damage and thermoprotective osmolytes. J. Exp. Biol. 220: 4292-4304.
  • Miller. L. P., and W. W. Dowd. 2017. Multimodal in situ datalogging quantifies inter-individual variation in thermal experience and persistent origin effects on gaping behavior among intertidal mussels (Mytilus californianus). J. Exp. Biol. 220: 4305-4319.
  • Williams, C. W., Buckley, L. B., Sheldon, K. S., Vickers, M., Pörtner, H.-O., Dowd, W. W., Gunderson, A. R., Marshall, K. E., and J. Stillman. 2016. Biological impacts of thermal extremes: mechanisms and costs of functional responses matter. Integr. Comp. Biol. 56: 73-84.
  • Jimenez, A. G., Jayawardene, S., Dallmer, J., Alves, S., and W. W. Dowd. 2015. Micro-scale environmental variation amplifies physiological variation among individual mussels. Proc. R. Soc. B. 20152273.
  • Dowd, W. W., King, F. A., and M. W. Denny. 2015. Thermal variation, thermal extremes, and the physiological performance of individuals. J. Exp. Biol. 218, 1956-1967.
  • Denny, M. W., and W. W. Dowd. 2012. Biophysics, environmental stochasticity, and the evolution of thermal safety margins in intertidal limpets. J. Exp. Biol. 215:934-947.
  • Denny, M. W., Dowd, W. W., Bilir, L., and K. Mach. 2011. Spreading the risk: Small-scale body temperature variation among intertidal organisms and its implications for species persistence. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 400:175-190.
  • Dowd, W. W., Harris, B. N., Cech, J. J., Jr., and D. Kültz. 2010. Proteomic and physiological responses of leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) to salinity change. J. Exp. Biol. 213:210-224.