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Warren Porter

Warren P. Porter

Research|Teaching |Publications| Outreach
Niche Mapper™

207 Zoology Research
Office: (608)262-1719
Lab: (608)262-0029


Molecular and Environmental Toxicology
The Nelson Institute: Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development
Engineering Physics

email Warren           Warren Porter CV pdf  CV

Research Interests

    Goals: To understand

    1. how spatially explicit climate, topography, and vegetation interact with ectotherm and endotherm morphology, physiology and behavior, disease.
    2. how low level contaminant/pesticide mixtures affect potential for survival, growth, reproduction and how that affects population dynamics, community structure and food web structure in time and space.
    3. how low-level contaminant/pesticide mixtures at environmentally relevant concentrations affect/alter developmental processes, neurological function (learning abilities and aggression levels), immune function, and endocrine function.
    4. the process of infection and the biochemical responses to bacterial and viral infections

    This past year has been an exceptional one for our lab in all three areas of our research. 

    • Modeling Animal Landscapes:
      We have 15 major papers published, accepted or in press in this area of our research in 2009. These papers collectively document our ability to calculate using our patented trait based mechanistic models (Niche Mapper™) past, present and future distributions, rates of invasion, migration times, habitat use, movement patterns and climate change impacts on capacity to reproduce and survive as a species for representative amphibians, reptiles, diving cormorant energetics and behavior from Green Bay, Wisconsin to the Mississippi Delta, the full-size range of Australian lizards, two small pelagic seabirds in the North Atlantic, a review on mechanistic niche modeling, a review on Macro- ecology; a conceptual reunification, and in the case of the dengue fever mosquito, /Aedes aegypti/, in Australia the capacity for evolution of the mosquito to evolve in the context of climate change. The second PNAS paper resolves a long standing dispute over what slope the mouse-to-elephant metabolic rate as a function of body size really is. A paper on the first mechanistic link between butterfly phenology changes and anthropogenic climate change just came out and for the second time this year our work made Nature’s or Science’s research highlights. I am the founder of an off campus company, ANIMAPS.US, to make Niche Mapper™ commercially available.
    • Subtle Biological Effects of Environmental Contaminants:
      We have 2 papers published, one in review in this area of our research into 2009. The papers describe and test 1) insecticide immune suppression in birds enhancing their vulnerability to West Nile virus. 2) a common pesticide in fruits and vegetables that shows up in children's urine that can alter learning abilities in female but not male mice at similar concentrations. 3) a common herbicide/fertilizer combination in surface and ground waters that suppresses learning abilities at environmentally relevant concentrations in mice.
    • Early detection of infectious disease:
      We have 1 new paper published and one in review in this area of our research this year. The first paper demonstrates our ability to detect onset of infection by our patented no doping stable isotope breath technology within two hours of the administration of the infection. Our new state-of-the-art technologies can detect isotopic ratio changes in breath due to catabolic events from a single sample or on a continuous, noninvasive flow-through basis. This will have immense benefits in intensive care and neonatal premature infants units and many other applications. The second paper with Dr. Fariba Assadi-Porter as lead author documents our ability to define, using a suite of patented biomarkers, the /stages/ of an infectious process and our ability to compensate for inter-individual variation in response. None of this has ever been done before. We have one patent and three new patent applications pending or in process covering our research discoveries. I am a founder of an off-campus company, Isomark, LLC, that may license and develop commercial applications as it sees fit. However, all fundamental research is done exclusively through our research group and patented through WARF.



    Zoology 101:  Animal Biology
    Zoology 504:  Modeling Animal Landscapes
    Zoology 400: Topics in Biology
    Zoology 956: Seminar - Ecology

    Note to prospective graduate students:

    I look for high intelligence, independence, creativity, and imagination in my students. I also look for broad interests, someone who likes personal challenges, and a synthetic capacity.
    Opportunities in my lab are largely limited by time and the student's capacity to learn.  We do interdisciplinary research and collaborate with faculty in engineering sciences, global climate and vegetation modeling, medical and veterinary sciences, and the physical sciences.

    Graduate students currently supervised:

    • Megan Fitzpatrick, - Predicting Potential Habitat of the Endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana) through Mechanistic Modeling.
    • Julia Haviland -Impact of common low-level environmental contaminants on neurological, endocrine, immune, DNA methylation, metabolome phase portrait shifts and developmental processes in mice.
    • Lucas Moyer-Horner - Present and past landscape ecology, energetics, behavior and distribution limits of yellow bellied marmots and pikas in western United States.
    • Paul Mathewson – Mechanistic calculations of the energetics, behavior and habitat utilization of polar bears in modern and future climate scenarios.
    • Javier Velasco - Toxicity of plasticizers, PAH’s and other toxicants due to plastic ingestion in Leatherback Sea Turtles.**
    • Jeremiah Yahn, - Landscape scale climate, topographic and morphological variation impacts on frog energetics, behavior and distributions from temperate to Arctic regions.

    Students supervised who've recently earned graduate degrees:

    Sue Vang, M.S. 2008  

    Mark Jankowski, Ph.D. 2007
    Environmental toxicology, immune suppression and infectious disease. 

    Joe Meisel, Ph.D. 2004
        How habitat fragmentation interacts with climate to affect distribution of insects and their avian predators in the tropics of Central America.

    Auston M. Kilpatrick, Ph.D.
        Aspects of community ecology, including: mechanisms generating patterns of mammalian diversity, spatial and temporal variation in competitive interactions, and the coevolution of avian malaria and native and introduced Hawaiian birds. (Abstract)

    Maria Fernanda Cavieres Fernandez, Ph.D.
        Reproductive and developmental toxicity of a commercial herbicide formulation in mice, (Abstract)

    Christopher R. Tracy, PhD
        Pattern and theory of geographic variation in physiology and body size in Sauromalus obesus. (Abstract)

    Elizabeth Sutherland, MS
        Dispersion of Timber wolves in north central Wisconsin

Selected Publications

Niche Mapper™

Niche Mapper™ is a patented collection of three mechanistic models that include a broadly applicable microclimate, ectotherm and endotherm model of heat and mass transfer and animal behavior. The microclimate model allows the translation of coarse spatial data, such as digital elevation models (DEMs), vegetation data, weather station data and spatially interpolated climate records, into microclimatic environmental variables relevant to the thermal and hydric ecology of organisms. These variables include air temperature, humidity and wind speed gradients above ground, soil thermal profiles and solar and thermal infrared radiation environments.

The ectotherm and endotherm models can use the output of the microclimate model, or user-collected data, to solve energy and mass balances for organisms contingent on the morphological, physiological and behavioral traits entered by the user. /Mass and heat balances are coupled, i.e. the heat balance specifies the mass flows that must occur through the gut and the respiratory system to sustain calculated metabolic/water loss rates that are dependent on the animal and local environmental properties./ The basic outputs include body temperature, metabolic rate and water loss rate in hourly time steps. These can be translated into functions of activity, dispersal, survival, growth and reproduction potential, landscape utilization patterns and distribution limits, as well as selection strengths in the context of spatial evolutionary studies.

The ectotherm model can also be used to simulate inanimate objects, such as ponds or water containers if the user chooses. Steady-state and transient (large thermal mass) scenarios can be run, and behavioral code is available for a range of organism behaviors (e.g. fossorial, arboreal, terrestrial, flying, diving, hibernating), although some ‘tweaking’ of the behavioral subroutines may be necessary for your organism. /The user may choose from an assortment of default geometries or may define their own set of geometries for the head, neck, torso, front legs and back legs.

The programs are Fortran executables. When used for landscape scale calculations, rather than point simulations, /there is a Perl program to communicate with MySQL databases for input and output and to call the Fortran executables. There is a set of user Niche Mapper™ instructions that is available as well as instructions for the use of MySQL to set up the databases and for Perl to interface the databases and the Fortran executable codes.

This site is under construction and we are working on developing more user friendly interfaces and a detailed manual. At this stage, please contact me via email for information about, and access to, the programs.


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