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Jonathon H. Stillman, PhD

Jonathon Stillman grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was active in outdoors activities on the lakes of northern Minnesota. During his senior year of high school, Dr. Stillman spent the year in New Zealand as an exchange student and it was at this time that he was first introduced to the great beauty and diversity of marine life. Dr. Stillman attended the University of Minnesota and graduated with a BS in Biology. During his undergraduate career, he spent a summer at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research and pursued research projects with Dr. Franklin Barnwell on biological rhythms in Fiddler crabs.

Dr. Stillman pursued his doctoral degree and did postdoctoral research in the lab of Dr. George Somero at Oregon State University and Stanford University (Hopkins Marine Station). During that time, he discovered that the porcelain crabs were an excellent group of organisms for comparative studies of adaptation to environmental stress because there were many different closely related species that lived across a wide range of habitats across two stress gradients, latitudinal (cold temperate - tropical) and vertical (subtidal high intertidal zone). Jonathon has demonstrated that porcelain crabs living high in the intertidal zone use decalcified areas on their legs to breathe while they are exposed to air during low tide. He has also showed that intertidal crabs are able to tolerate a wider range of temperatures than subtidal crabs at any one site and that this pattern is true in both temperate and tropical regions. Perhaps the most ecologically relevant findings from these studies is that 1) intertidal species live in thermal microhabitats that are close to species maximal thermal tolerance limits and 2) capacities for thermal acclimation of thermal tolerance limits vary among species inversely proportional to maximal habitat temperature. This means that the species that will be impacted by global warming are most likely to be those that are the most heat tolerant and live in the hottest habitats — a counterintuitive finding! Dr. Stillman's studies are on a wide range of biological levels from whole organism to molecular — and he is currently employing tools from genome science to identify the genes responsible in setting an organism's thermal phenotype.

Dr. Stillman is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Hawai'i, where he is continuing his research on thermal physiology of porcelain crabs and is developing new projects involving the thermal biology and stress physiology of corals. He is relocating to the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. Off-site Link

Relevant Publications

Stillman, J.H. (2003). Acclimation capacity underlies susceptibility to climate change. Science, 301, 65. Off-site Link

Stillman, J.H. (2002). Physiological tolerance limits in intertidal crabs. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 42(4), 790-796. Off-site Link

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