Not everyone copes with change the same way. That includes animals.
Since joining UNLV in 2021 as a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Life Sciences, Carla Madelaire has studied the response of several mammals to environmental changes and challenges. Madelaire says the way in which those responses are similar and variable across species is important to better understand how we can minimize the effect humans have on animals.
“The world is changing so fast because humans are doing a lot of different things to this planet, and we don’t know why some species can survive those changes and others just perish. If we can better understand that, maybe we can mitigate those effects,” Madelaire said. “We have a responsibility to do what we can to save species so we can have a planet that’s in equilibrium. Also, animals deserve to be here just as much as we do.”
Madelaire presented her research at the 2022 Graduate and Professional Student Research Forum, hosted by the Graduate & Professional Student Association. Her poster presentation earned her the UNLV Office of Postdoctoral Affairs’ inaugural award, the Postdoctoral Scholar Outstanding Poster Presentation Award.
“I went [to the event] because I like to support the UNLV community and get to know other researchers,” said Madelaire. “It’s important to know what my colleagues at the university are doing. Events like this are important because maybe you can learn something new or let your mind think about how other research can be part of your research and brainstorm new ideas. It was great.”
Mammalian Response to Heat Stress
With the direction of Allyson Hindle, Madelaire’s postdoctoral research investigates varying cellular responses of 13 mammalian species to heat stress. The collaborative team is trying to determine which responses are shared and which are variable in order to better understand resiliency.
“In the future, we might be able to activate cellular responses to make species more resilient,” Madelaire said.
Understanding how animals cope with environmental stress helps human medicine too, according to Madelaire.
“For instance, when humans have a heart attack or a stroke, tissues are deprived of oxygen. Studying the physiological mechanisms employed by animals that are tolerant to low oxygen concentrations, such as whales and seals, can give us a hint of how to mitigate the effects of these diseases in humans,” she said.
Originally from Brazil, Madelaire earned both a physiology Ph.D. and an M.S. at the University of São Paulo and a biology B.Sc. at São Paulo State University. Before joining UNLV, she held postdoctoral positions at Northern Arizona University and University of São Paulo and a doctoral-level internship at the University of North Carolina.
“I was always interested in understanding the relationships between things in the environment. As an undergraduate, I researched how parasites affect their hosts, and that all led me to where I am now,” Madelaire said.
After completing her postdoctoral appointment at UNLV, Madelaire hopes to find a permanent position in academia or continue her research for a nonprofit organization.
“A lot of postdocs are kind of in limbo and lost, so having the support of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at UNLV is great,” Madelaire said. “[Winning the award] was … such a great surprise. Putting postdocs in the spotlight is a great initiative. It helps UNLV’s status among other universities.”