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Michael Sears

Associate Professor
Biological Sciences Department

Office: 323 Long Hall
Vita: Download CV
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 Educational Background

PhD Biology
University of Pennsylvania 2001

BS Biology
Rhodes College 1993

 Courses Taught

Comparative Physiology


My lab works at the interface of theory and empiricism to solve problems in ecology and evolution, particularly with regard to thermal biology and climate change.

 Research Interests

My research focuses on the effects of environmental heterogeneity—through both time and space—on the physiology, behavior, and ecology of individuals. Specifically, I am interested in understanding whether and how animals might respond to ongoing climatic change. Toward that end, I use an integrative approach that both develops and tests theory. Approaches in my lab use tools not only from physiological and behavioral ecology, but also from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing, evolutionary programming and individual based modeling, statistics, and (recently) ecological genomics. Currently, my research interests are very broadly divided among several fronts:

1. Developing and testing a theory of landscape physiology and behavior
2. Integrating small scale environmental heterogeneity to large scale ecological processes
3. Understanding the evolution of geographic variation in physiological traits
4. Responses of species to climatic change


Riddell EA, E Apanovitch, J Odum, MW Sears. 2017. Physical calculations of resistance to water loss improve predictions of species range models. Ecological Monographs 87:21-33.

Sears, MW, MJ Angilletta, MS Schuler, J Borchert, KF Dilliplane, M Stegman, T Rusch, and WA Mitchell. 2016. Configuration of the thermal landscape determines thermoregulatory performance of ectotherms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1604824113.

Pincebourde S, CC Murdock , M Vickers, MW Sears. 2016. Fine-scale microclimatic variation can shape the responses of organisms to global change in both natural and urban environments. Integrative and Comparative Biology 56:45–61

Riddell EA, MW Sears. 2015. Geographic variation of resistance to water loss within two species of lungless salamanders: implications for activity. Ecosphere 6: art86.

Wone BWM, P Madsen, ER Donovan, MK Labocha, MW Sears, CJ Downs, D Sorensen, JP Hayes. 2015. A strong response to selection on mass-independent maximal metabolic rate without a correlated response in basal metabolic rate. Heredity 114: 419-427

Sears MW, MJ Angilletta. 2015. Costs and benefits of thermoregulation revisited: both the heterogeneity and spatial structure of temperature drive energetic costs. American Naturalist 185: E94-E102. Recommended by Faculty of 1000.

Caruso NM, MW Sears, DC Adams, KL Lips (2014) Widespread reductions in body size of salamanders in response to climate change. Global Change Biology 20:1751-1759.

Bogosian V III, EC Hellgren, MW Sears, RW Moody (2012) High resolution niche models via a correlative approach: comparing and combining correlative and process-based information. Ecological Modelling, 237-338:63-73.

Niehaus AC, MJ Angilletta, MW Sears, CE Franklin, RS Wilson (2012) Predicting the physiological performance of ectotherms in fluctuating thermal environments. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215:694-701. Recommended by Faculty of 1000.

Sears MW, MJ Angilletta (2011) Responses of organisms to climate change: a synthetic approach to the role of thermal adaptation. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 662-665.

Angilletta, MJ, MW Sears (2011) Grand Challenges: Coordinating theoretical and empirical efforts to understand the linkages between organisms and environments. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 653-661.

Sears MW, E Raskin*, MJ Angilletta (2011) The world is not flat: Defining relevant thermal landscapes in the context of climate change. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 666-675.

Schuler MS, JJ Storm, MW Sears, BS Cooper, BH Williams, MJ Angilletta (2011) Isopods failed to acclimate their thermal sensitivity of locomotor performance during predictable or stochastic cooling. Public Library of Science ONE 6:e20905.

Schuler MS, MJ Angilletta, MW Sears (2011) Food availability does not affect the preferred body temperature of Yarrow’s spiny lizard. Journal of Thermal Biology 36:112-115.

Buckley L, M Urban, M Angilletta, L Crozier, L Rissler, M Sears (2010) Can mechanism inform species’ distribution models? Ecology Letters 13: 1041-1054. Recommended by Faculty of 1000. Cited in IPCC WGII AR5 Chapter 4.

Sears MW, JP Hayes, M Banta, D McCormick. (2009) Out in the cold: physiological capacity influences behavior in deer mice. Functional Ecology 23: 774-783.

Wone B, MW Sears, M Labocha, E. Donovan, JP Hayes (2009) Genetic variances and covariances of metabolic traits in Mus musculus and a genetic test of the aerobic capacity model for the evolution of endothermy Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 276: 3695-3704. Highly Saved. Highly Cited.

Angilletta MJ, MW Sears, R Pringle*. (2009) The spatial dynamics of nesting behavior: lizards shift microhabitats to construct nests with beneficial thermal properties. Ecology 90: 2933-2939. Highly Saved. Highly Cited.

Sears MW, J Diffendorfer, KL Lips, JR Mendelson III (2008) Amphibian declines and issues of inference: response to Parmesan and Singer. Public Library of Science Biology 14 April 2008.

Lips KR, J Diffendorfer, JR Mendelson III, MW Sears (2008) Riding the wave: Climate change, disease, and amphibian declines. Public Library of Science Biology 6: 441-454. Cited in IPCC WGII AR5 Chapter 4.


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