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University of Groningen

 Our group has historically had very strong links with the University of Groningen. In particular the late Henk Visser’s laboratory which was one of the only other sites worldwide applying DLW to small animals, and our groups have many research interests in common.

In 2003 Henk spent a 4 month sabbatical in Aberdeen working on an aspect of the limitations on maximal metabolic rate using our MF1 mouse system.

In 2004 he was made an honorary Professor of the University of Aberdeen. The linkages between our groups was enhanced early in 2006 when we started a series of workshops involving group visits between Aberdeen and Groningen – the GRO-ABS workshops.The first workshop involved a delegation of scientists form Groningen visiting Aberdeen for 3 days.

The first GRO-ABS workshop.
Some of the participants in the Foyer of the Zoology building in Aberdeen (l to r. Speakman, Wang, Hut, Hazlerigg, van Holt, Strikstra, Agyeman, Schubert and Adams)

Unfortunately Henk passed away in 2007. He was a great guy, a fantastic scientist and a true friend that will be sorely missed by all that knew him - us included. Our links with Groningen continue - and the second GRO-ABS workshop was held in Groningen in 2007 and the third in Aberdeen in 2008. As a mark of our appreciation of Henk's contribution to our joint research interests we have decided in future to call these workshops the GRO-ABS VISSER workshops.


DeHua Wang
Ecophysiology Group
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

This collaboration started in 2005 when John Speakman spent 4 weeks in China funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. A reciprocal visit by DeHua Wang to Aberdeen was made in February 2006 to coincide with the ABS-GRO workshop held in Aberdeen at that time (above). In the summer of 2006 John Speakman spent another 5 weeks in China this time working on regulation of body weight in Brandt’s voles. In early 2007 DeHua spent 6 weeks working in Aberdeen and a student from his group (LiNa Zhang) started a 3 year PhD research project in January 2007 funded partly by the University and partly by Astrazeneca. During the summer 2007 three members of the Aberdeen group spent time in China working at the new CAS building in Beijing on limits to lactation performance in Brandt’s voles.

John Speakman outside the CAS building in Haidian, Beijing (July 2006)

John Speakman in the lab with Jian-guo Cui and Gong-bin Tang measuring breath carbon isotopes from Brandt’s voles.

John Speakman with DeHua’s ecophysiology group in Beijing, outside the main library (summer 2006).

Plateau pika project

In addition to the work in Beijing we were successful at raising funds from the Royal Society and Chinese Academy of sciences for a joint-international project to look at the energetics of the Plateau pika living on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Specifically the project aims to elucidate how the pika survive the 

harsh winters on the plateau.  In summer 2007 John Speakman, Dehua Wang and Jan-min Zhang (of the North-west plateau Institute in Xining) surveyed a number of field sites for this work. Paula Redman visited the field site near atomic city in November 2007.

A post doc from deHua's lab (Jian-Guo Cui) visited Aberdeen for 2 months in early 2008 to process these samples. John Speakman then visited the same site in Summer 2008 and in January 2009. During these trips we have managed to capture and successfully recapture about 120 pika to study their energy demands in both summer and winter. In July 2009 DeHua wang and two post docs (Gang-bin Tang and Qingsheng Chi) visited aberdeen for a week as part of this project.

Atomic city study site, Xining, January 2009

Murray Humphries
McGill University, Canada

Energetics of red squirrels in the Yukon.

Murray Humphries worked in the energetics lab at Aberdeen for 3 months during the summer of 2001. He was a visiting student from Don Thomas’s lab in Sherbrooke Canada. During the summer he worked on an energetics model that Don and I had previously sketched out in a book chapter. Murray developed this model and we used it to predict the likely impact of climate changes in North America on the distribution patterns of little brown bats.

Predicted northern limit to the distribution of the little brown bat (blue) with the actual most northerly records of this species. The band is red is the expected shift in the position of the northern limits by 2050.

This work forms an important physiological bridge tieing together climatic changes with distributional changes of animals. Following this work he returned to Canada where he started working on the survival strategies of over-wintering red squirrels in the Yukon. Our collaborative measures of energy expenditure in these animals during the severe Yukon winters have revealed they have surprisingly low metabolic rates. Paula Redman visited the Yukon in 2005 to assist with the doubly-labelled water work. We have now expanded the work to look at the impacts of over-wintering on the subsequent reproductive performance of squirrels.


Humphries, M.M., Thomas, D.W., Hall, C.L., SPEAKMAN, J.R., and Kramer, D.L.
(2002) The energetics of autumn mast hoarding in eastern chipmunks
Oecologia 133: 30-37

Humphries, M.M., Thomas, D.W. & SPEAKMAN, J.R. (2002)
Climate mediated energetic constraints on the distribution of hibernating bats.
Nature 418: 313-316

Humphries, M., SPEAKMAN, J.R., and Thomas, D. (2005)
Temperature, hibernation energetics, and the cave and continental distributions of little brown bats. In Functional and Ecological aspects of the biology of bats. (Ed. T.H. Kunz)
Chicago University press

Humphries M.M., Boutin S., Thomas D.W., Ryan J.D., Selman C., McAdam A.G., Berteaux D., SPEAKMAN, J.R. (2005)
Expenditure freeze: the metabolic response of small mammals to cold
Environments Ecology letters 8: 1326-1333

Mario Acquarone

Energetics of Walrus in Greenland

Mario was a Marie Curie exchange student who came to work in Aberdeen for 6 months in 2002. He has used the doubly-labelled water method to estimate the energy demands of walrus living in northern Greenland. At a body weight of almost 1 ton these are the largest animals that have ever been measured using the technique. These data are important because they impact critically on our estimates of the energy demands of pinnipeds when using allometric scaling models. Such estimates for a crucial component of fisheries models aiming to predict the impact of pinnipeds on fish stocks..

Maria da luz Matthias
Energetics of genetic races of house mice on Madiera

Maria visited Aberdeen to learn the techniques of indirect calorimetry. We subsequently collaborated to measure the energy demands of different Robertsonian chromosome races of mice living in the wild on the island of Madiera.


Mathias, ML., Nunes, A.C., Marques, C., Auffray, J.C., Britton Davidian, J.,
Catalan, J., Ganem, G., Grunduz, I., Ramathinho, M.G., Searle, J.B. and SPEAKMAN, J.R.(2006)
Effects of climate on oxygen consumption and energy intake of chromosomally divergent populations of the house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus) from the island of Madeira (North Atlantic, Portugal).
Functional Ecology

Phillipe Mendonca

Energetics of over-wintering Apodemus falvicollis

The yellow-necked mouse is a rare species of Apodemus in the United Kingdom although much commoner and more widespread on mainland Europe. Phillipe has been studying the over-wintering energy demands of mice and in particular the benefits gained from huddling behaviour.

Marek Konarzewski
Karol Zub Paulina Szafranska
Mammal Research Institute, Bialowieza, Poland

Energetics of weasels



Zub K., Szafrańska P. A., Konarzewski M., Redman P., SPEAKMAN, J.R. (2009)

Tradeoffs between activity and thermoregulation in a small carnivore, the least weasel Mustela nivalis  Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 1921-1927