Author Archives: diseaseecology

About diseaseecology

Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology

April 6 Lecture

Here are a few interesting questions that came up in class:

1. What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it properly. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps the body use glucose for energy. Glucose is a form of sugar that is the body’s main source of energy.

The body’s digestive system breaks food down into glucose, which then travels in the bloodstream to cells throughout the body. Glucose in the blood is called blood glucose, also known as blood sugar. As the blood glucose level rises after a meal, the pancreas releases insulin to help cells take in and use the glucose.

When people are insulin resistant, their muscle, fat, and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin. As a result, their bodies need more insulin to help glucose enter cells. The pancreas tries to keep up with this increased demand for insulin by producing more. Eventually, the pancreas fails to keep up with the body’s need for insulin. Excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, setting the stage for diabetes. Many people with insulin resistance have high levels of both glucose and insulin circulating in their blood at the same time.

Insulin resistance increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Learning about insulin resistance is the first step toward making lifestyle changes that can help prevent diabetes and other health problems.

“Insulin Resistance and Pre-diabetes.” National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Oct. 2008. Web. 10 Apr. 2011.
2. What is an insulin resistant diet?
– no potatoes
– no simple sugars/carbohydrates (fructose, sweets, cookies, ice cream)
– almost no grain products (bread, pasta, popcorn)
– only whole grains in small amounts
– small amounts of fruit (mostly berries)
– eggs
– nuts
– lean meat, seafood, and fish
3. Why do elephants have a lower BMR?
– larger species have a lower mass specific BMR
– since elephants weigh more and they are much larger,they do not have to eat as often as a rat


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Summer Jobs

Hi Class,

I’d like to use the blog to share summer job opportunities.  As I mentioned in class, I think you would all benefit by pursuing summer jobs that will allow you to explore career options and allow you to gain experience relevant to your major.  I think there are plenty of paid positions out there and I would recommend looking for a paid position over an unpaid position.

The National Science Foundation supports programs called Research Experiences for Undergraduates.  Here is a website where you can search these opportunities –  I did an REU in college and it changed my career path.  I spent the summer in the Dominican Republic studying seed dispersal by herbivorous iguanas.  I learned a lot about ecology, earned a $3000 stipend,  got a nice tan, and met people who helped me get into graduate school.

I encourage you all to use the blog to share details about potential positions that your classmates might be interested in.

Dr. Hartley



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Contest! Can you answer this question?

In class we talked about why some gases are more potent as greenhouse gases on a per molecule basis than other gases.  For example, nitrous oxide is 300 times more effective than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.  Using knowledge about chemistry, explain why this is the case.  The first person to post a correct answer will win a fabulous prize in class.  You can look for the answer on the web, in a text, in the brain of your chemistry tutor or professor etc.



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Chapter 23 Lecture

Hi Class,

On Monday  1/24, we went over the lecture slides for Chapter 23.  The main points are
1 – What led to the development of the theory of evolution?
2 – What were Darwin’s ideas about how evolution by natural selection occurs?
3 – What is “New Synthesis” or “What did Darwin not know”?
4 – What evidence is there for evolution?
We finished points 1-3 and were starting on point 4 when the class ended.

A book called “Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body” was recommended by a classmate.  You can find it on Amazon.  The author is on the faculty of the University of Chicago Medical School.  He writes “The best roadmaps to human bodies lie in the bodies of other animals. The simplest way to teach students the nerves in the human head is to show them the state of affairs in sharks. The easiest roadmap to their limbs lies in fish. Reptiles are a real help with the structure of the brain. The reason is that the bodies of these creatures are simpler versions of ours.”
I know many of you hope to pursue a career in the medical field.  The quote above shows you how evolution can help you understand human anatomy.  In my own work with disease ecology, I see lots of ways that an understanding of evolution is critical for doctors and health care workers.  For example, pathogens are constantly evolving and the way in which we care for patients can exert selection pressures on the pathogens that ultimately affect the health of other members of the human population.
I’ll end with saying that I want the blog to be for you guys to use in whatever ways help you learn biology, extend your experiences, network with each other, and have fun.   For the 1 pt on your final grade, all you have to do is write and least 1 blog and 5 comments.
Dr. Hartley

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