Caroline Williams

Caroline Williams

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Dept of Integrative Biology
Phone
(510) 643-9775
Research Expertise and Interest
evolution, physiology, ecophysiology, metabolism, insect, winter, adaptation, thermal biology
Research Description

How do variable environments drive the evolution of metabolic physiology in ectotherms?

An organism’s central task is to obtain nutrients from the environment, and divide those nutrients among competing demands in the way that best enhances the passing on of its genes. This task is complicated enormously by the fact that environments vary widely in concentrations of nutrients, and in abiotic factors such as temperature and oxygen that profoundly impact the acquisition and processing of those nutrients. Fluctuations in these abiotic factors can push organisms outside tolerance limits, inducing stress responses that in turn alter resource allocation strategies. My research aims to uncover drivers, mechanisms and consequences of adaptive evolutionary change in pathways of energy metabolism, in response to environmental variability. My current research focuses on four inter-related themes: 1) Evolutionary impacts of seasonality; 2) Mechanisms and consequences of stress responses; and 3) Mechanisms of life history evolution; and 4) Methods development in metabolic physiology and biochemistry. I use a diverse array of small ectotherms in my research, mostly insects (although now I have students working on tardigrades and aquatic snails!). Small ectotherms frequently have body temperatures close to environmental temperatures, comprise many important herbivores that are an integral link in terrestrial food webs, and are extremely sensitive to changes in the environment.

In the News

March 19, 2021

Tropical species are moving northward as winters warm

Notwithstanding last month’s cold snap in Texas and Louisiana, climate change is leading to warmer winter weather throughout the southern U.S., creating a golden opportunity for many tropical plants and animals to move north, according to a new study appearing this week in the journal Global Change Biology.

In the News

March 19, 2021

Tropical species are moving northward as winters warm

Notwithstanding last month’s cold snap in Texas and Louisiana, climate change is leading to warmer winter weather throughout the southern U.S., creating a golden opportunity for many tropical plants and animals to move north, according to a new study appearing this week in the journal Global Change Biology.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
March 19, 2021
As climate change leads to warmer winters, many tropical plants and animals are moving north, according to a new study appearing this week in the journal Global Change Biology. "Quite a few mosquito species are expanding northward, as well as a lot of forestry pests: bark beetles, the southern mountain pine beetle," said Caroline Williams, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of the paper. "In our study, we were really focusing on that boundary in the U.S. where we get that quick tropical-temperate transition. Changes in winter conditions are one of the major, if not the major, drivers of shifting distributions." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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