Andrew Esbaugh
Research Interests

In general, research in my lab focuses on the interaction between physiology and the environment in marine fish. In particular, my interest lies in the integrative roles of respiratory gas exchange, acid-base balance and osmoregulation, and how these systems are adapted to allow fish to thrive in a diverse array of environments.

One particular focus of my research involves understanding the evolution and mechanisms of respiratory gas exchange in water breathing animals. The successful uptake of oxygen and excretion of carbon dioxide are integral to all vertebrates, and in most modern teleost fish these processes are tightly linked via red blood cell proteins. However, the levels of the relevant components of red blood cells seem to vary widely among teleosts, and in more ancestral water breathers, such as sharks and hagfish, the red blood cell can be completely bypassed for carbon dioxide excretion. I am interested in deciphering the relative importance of various red blood cell proteins for gas exchange, as well as the evolutionary pressures responsible for driving carbon dioxide transport from the plasma into the red blood cells.

A second major focus of my research is looking at the potential for physiological systems to change in response to varying environments, both of natural and anthropogenic origin. Of particular interest are responses of fish to salinity changes related to evaporative water loss or freshwater inflow in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the impacts of ocean acidification. This is of particular interest today due to the potentially damaging effects of global climate change and ocean acidification on fish populations.

A final area of research involves assessing the impacts of environmental toxins on fish survival, physiology and performance. Most recently I have been involved in examining the toxic effects of polyaromatic hydrocarbons on fish species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Current species of interest include red drum, summer flounder, spiny dogfish shark, toadfish and the Pacific hagfish.

Affiliated Departments