William Milsom

Head of Zoology, Professor
BSc Hons (University of Alberta)
MSc (University of Washington)
PhD (University of British Columbia)

Contact Info:
Department of Zoology
University of British Columbia
6270 University Blvd.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada, V6T 1Z4

Tel: (604) 822-2310
FAX: (604) 822-2416

Community of Science CV
Most Recent Contribution
Research Program
Recent Works
Sample Publications
Life In The Cold Conference Pictures


Research Program - Comparative Neurobiology of Respiration and Circulation in Vertebrates

Work in my lab is directed at determining the physiological basis of biodiversity in vertebrates. What are the physiological adaptations that individual species possess that allow them to live in different environments? In particular we study respiratory, cardiovascular, thermoregulatory and metabolic adaptations for life in environments with low / high levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, temperature, food and water. We are particularly interested in the neural control of these processes and their function in unanesthetized, freely behaving animals.  

Many of the projects currently underway in my laboratory are described on the individual homepages of my fellows and students. Take a look at them - they're great. Listed below are other projects as well as collaborative research ventures with which my students and I are also involved.

Recent Projects

Regulation of cardio-respiratory reflexes in fish

Fish flourish in a wide variety of habitats which differ extensively in temperature and levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide and various minerals and ions. To understand the physiological basis of biodiversity and the different capacities of various species of fish to cope with environmental change (global warming, acid rain, etc.), there is an acute need to understand just what different species can sense and respond to in an adaptive way. What types of receptors do fish possess? What exactly do they monitor? Where are the receptor sites? How sensitive are these receptors? What physiological reflexes do they elicit? To what extent do these factors vary between species adapted to live in different environments? We are attempting to answer these questions using a multi-species approach to examine the cardiorespiratory physiology of marine and fresh water fish that are hypoxia tolerant and hypoxia intolerant as well as of fish that employ aquatic surface respiration, facultative air breathing and obligate air breathing.
This collaboration involves colleagues from:
The Federal University of Sao Carlos, Sao Carlos, Brasil:  Dr. F. Tadeu Rantin, Dr. Ana L. Kalinin, Luiz Henrique Florindo, Jane M Lopes, Cheila L. Boijink,
The University of Goteborg, Goteborg, Sweden:  Dr. Lena Sundin
The University of Toronto at Scarborough, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada:  Dr. Steve Reid
The University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada:  Dr. Steve Perry
Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada:  Dr. Katie Gilmour


Physiological adaptations of fish and reptiles to seasonal changes in the Pantanal

The Pantanal is a complex region within the basin of the Paraguay River, in the Brasilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. The region is approximately 140,000 Km2 and its climate ranges from an excessive rainfall of more than 1200 mm, between December and February, to severe drought between May and September. The major stresses associated with seasonal change differ somewhat for aquatic and terrestrial animals in the Pantanal. For the fishes, the summer flooding inundates a significant portion of the vast floodplain while the dry winter period results in declining water levels in rivers and streams leading to the isolation and stagnation of standing bodies of water. As the water level is reduced there are complex changes in temperature and the levels of dissolved oxygen , carbon dioxide, pH, methane, hydrogen sulfide and osmolites. These changes can profoundly affect respiratory gas exchange, acid-base regulation, and osmoregulation. These immediate physiological disturbances will, in turn, affect metabolism, growth and reproductive processes in fish. For the terrestrial vertebrates, the winter dry period leads to food and water restrictions as well as decreasing ambient temperature. Reductions in each pose severe restrictions for metabolic processes but the organisms must match the supply of metabolites (oxygen, water and nutrients) to metabolic demands if they are to survive.

This collaboration involves colleagues from:

The Universidade Estadual Paulista - Rio Claro, Rio Claro Brasil:  Dr. Augusto Abe, Dr. Denis Andrade, Dr. Ariovaldo Cruz-Neto
The Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul, Campo Grande, Brasil:  Dr. Masao Uetanabaro, Dr. Otavio Froelich, Cynthia Almeida Prado
Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark:  Dr. Tobias Wang
The University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark:  Dr. John Steffensen
The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom:  Dr. Ted Taylor
The University of Jena, Bonn, Germany:  Dr. Matthias Starck

Sample Publications
The following list highlights the variety of research carried out in my lab in the recent past. For a complete list of my publications, see Community of Science CV.

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Milsom, WK, Andrade, DU, Brito, SP, Toledo, LF, Wang,T, and Abe, AS 2005. Seasonal changes in daily metabolic patterns of tegu lizards (Tupinambis merianae) placed in the cold (17°C) and dark. Physiol. Biochem. Zool. (Submitted).

Koehle MS, Sheel AW, Milsom WK, McKenzie DC. 2007. Two patterns of daily hypoxic exposure and their effects on measures of chemosensitivity in humans. J Appl Physiol. In press.

Leite CA, Florindo LH, Kalinin AL, Milsom WK, Rantin FT. 2007. Gill chemoreceptors and cardio-respiratory reflexes in the neotropical teleost pacu, Piaractus mesopotamicus. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 193:1001-1011.PDF

Scott GR, Milsom WK. 2007. Control of breathing and adaptation to high altitude in the bar-headed goose. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 293:R379-391.PDF

Gargaglioni LH, Meier JT, Branco LG, Milsom WK. 2007. Role of midbrain in the control of breathing in anuran amphibians. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 293:R447-457.PDF

Milsom WK, Burleson ML. 2007. Peripheral arterial chemoreceptors and the evolution of the carotid body. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 157:4-11.PDF

Dodd GA, Scott GR, Milsom WK. 2007. Ventilatory roll off during sustained hypercapnia is gender specific in pekin ducks. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 156:47-60.PDF

Gargaglioni LH, Milsom WK. 2007. Control of breathing in anuran amphibians. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 147:665-684.PDF

Florindo LH, Leite CA, Kalinin AL, Reid SG, Milsom WK, Rantin FT. 2006. The role of branchial and orobranchial O2 chemoreceptors in the control of aquatic surface respiration in the neotropical fish tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum): progressive responses to prolonged hypoxia. J Exp Biol. 209:1709-1715.PDF

Scott GR, Milsom WK. 2006. Flying high: a theoretical analysis of the factors limiting exercise performance in birds at altitude. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 154:284-301.PDF

Tattersall GJ, de Andrade DV, Brito SP, Abe AS, Milsom WK. 2006. Regulation of ventilation in the caiman (Caiman latirostris): effects of inspired CO2 on pulmonary and upper airway chemoreceptors. J Comp Physiol [B]. 176:125-38. PDF

Lang CJ, Postle AD, Orgeig S, Possmayer F, Bernhard W, Panda AK, Jurgens KD, Milsom WK, Nag K, Daniels CB. 2005. Dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine is not the major surfactant phospholipid species in all mammals. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 289:R1426-1439. PDF

Foster GE, McKenzie DC, Milsom WK, Sheel AW. 2005. Effects of two protocols of intermittent hypoxia on human ventilatory, cardiovascular and cerebral responses to hypoxia. J Physiol. 567:689-699.PDF

Reid SG, Perry SF, Gilmour KM, Milsom WK and FT Rantin. 2005. Reciprocal modulation of oxygen and carbon dioxide cardiorespiratory chemoreflexes in the tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum). Respir. Physiol. Neurobiol. 146:175-194.PDF

Gilmour, K.M., Milsom, W.K., Rantin, F.T., Reid, S.G. and S.F. Perry. 2005. Cardiorespiratory responses to hypercarbia in tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum): chemoreceptor orientation and specificity. J. Exp. Biol. 208:1095-1107. PDF

Borg KA, Milsom WK and DR Jones. 2004. The effect of O2 and CO2 on the dive behaviour and heart rate of lesser scaup ducks (Aythya affinis): quantification of the critical PaO2 that initiates the diving bradycardia. (Respir. Physiol. Neurobiol. 144:263-280.PDF

Zimmer MB and WK Milsom. 2004. Effect of hypothermia on respiratory rhythm generation in hamster brainstem-spinal cord preparations. Resp. Physiol. Neurobiol. PDF

Tattersall GJ, WK Milsom, AS Abe, SP Brito and DV Andrade. 2004. The thermogenesis of digestion in rattlesnakes. J. Exp. Biol. 207(4): 579-85.PDF

de Andrade DV, GJ Tattersall, SP Brito, R Soncini, LG Branco, ML Glass, AS Abe and WK Milsom. 2004. The ventilatory response to environmental hypercarbia in the South American rattlesnake, Crotalus durissus. J. Comp. Physiol. B. 174(4): 281-91.PDF

Harris, MB and WK Milsom. 2003. Apneusis follows disruption of NMDA-type glutamate receptors in vagotomized ground squirrels. Respir. Physiol. Neurobiol. 134: 191-207. PDF

Tattersall, G and WK Milsom. 2003. Hypothermia-induced respiratory arrest and recovery in neonatal rats. Respir. Physiol. Neurobiol. 137: 29-40. PDF

Ormand, CJ, S Orgeig, CB Daniels and WK Milsom. 2003. Thermal acclimation of surfactant secretion and its regulation by adrenergic and cholinergic agonists in type II cells isolated from warm-active and torpid golden-mantled ground squirrels, Spermophilus lateralis. J.Exp. Biol. 206: 3031-3041. PDF

Reid, SG, L Sundin, LH Florindo, FT Rantin and WK Milsom. 2003. Effects of afferent input on the breathing pattern continuum in the tambaqui (Colossoma macroponuum). Respir. Physiol. Neurobiol. 136: 39-54. PDF

Tattersall, GJ and WK Milsom. 2003. Transient peripheral warming accompanies the hypoxic metabolic response in the golden-mantled ground squirrel. J. Exp. Biol. 206: 33-42. PDF

Rourke, BC, Y Yukoyama, YZ Wu, WK Milsom and VJ Caiozzo. 2003. Myosin isoform expression and MAFbx mRNA levels in hibernating golden-mantled ground squirrels (Spermophilus lateralis). Am. J. Physiol.

Wang, T, EW Taylor, SG Reid and WK Milsom. 2003. Interactive effects of mechano- and chemo-receptor inputs on cardio-respiratory outputs in the toad. Respir. Physiol. (Accepted).

Milsom, WK, SG Reid, FT Rantin and L Sundin. 2002. Extrabranchial chemoreceptors involved in respiratory reflexes in the neotropical fish Colossoma macropomum (the tambaqui). J. Exp. Biol. 205: 1765-1774.  PDF

Barros, RC, ME Zimmer, LGS Branco and WK Milsom. 2001. The "hypoxic metabolic response" of the golden-mantled ground squirrel. Am. J. Physiol. 91: 603-612. PDF

Sanders, CE and WK Milsom. 2001. The effects of tonic lung inflation on ventilation in the American bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana Shaw. J. Exp. Biol. 204: 2647-2656. 

Harris MB and WK Milsom. 2001. The influence of NMDA receptor-mediated processes on breathing pattern in ground squirrels. Respir. Physiol. 125(3): 181-97.  PDF

Mitchell GS, FL Powell, SR Hopkins and WK Milsom. 2001. Time domains of the hypoxic ventilatory response in awake ducks: episodic and continuous hypoxia. Respir. Physiol. 124(2): 117-28. PDF

Sundin, L, M Burleson, T Wang, S Reid, H Selgado, A Abe, M Glass, and WK Milsom. 2001. Pulmonary receptors in reptiles: discharge patterns of receptor populations in snakes versus turtles. J. Comp. Physiol. B. 171: 103-111.

Milsom, WK. 2000. Breathless by choice. Biologist. 47(5): 239-242. PDF

Reid SG, JT Meier and WK Milsom. 2000. The influence of descending inputs on breathing pattern formation in the isolated bullfrog brainstem-spinal cord. Respir. Physiol. 120(3): 197-211. PDF

Reid SG, L Sundin, AL Kalinin, FT Rantin and WK Milsom. 2000. Cardiovascular and respiratory reflexes in the tropical fish, traira (Hoplias malabaricus): CO2/pH chemoresponses. Respir. Physiol. 120(1): 47-59.  PDF

Sundin, L, SG Reid, FT Rantin and WK Milsom. 2000. Branchial receptors and cardiorespiratory reflexes in a neotropical fish, the tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum). J. Exp. Biol. 203: 1225-1239.  PDF

Gamperl, AK, WK Milsom, AP Farrell and T Wang. 1999. Cardiorespiratory responses of the toad (Bufo marinus) to hypoxia at two different temperatures. J. Exp. Biol. 202: 3647-3658.  PDF

Milsom, WK, SG Reid, JT Meier and R Kinkead. 1999. Central respiratory pattern generation in the bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. A. 124: 253-264.  PDF

Powell, FL, GS Mitchell and WK Milsom. 1998. Frontiers in Respiration Physiology: Time domains of the hypoxic ventilatory response. Respir. Physiol. 112: 123-134. PDF

Kinkead, R, MB Harris, and WK Milsom. 1997. The role of the nucleus isthmi in respiratory pattern formation in bullfrogs. J. Exp. Biol. 200: 1781-1793.  PDF

Funk, G, I Valenzuela and W Milsom. 1997. Energetic consequences of coordinating wingbeat and respiratory rhythms in birds. J. Exp. Biol. 200: 915-920.  PDF

Harris, MB and WK Milsom. 1996. Parasympathetic influence on heart rate in euthermic and hibernating ground squirrels. J. Exp. Biol. 198: 931-937.  PDF

Burlington, RF and WK Milsom. 1993. Differential effects of acetylcholine on coronary flow in isolated hypothermic hearts from rats and ground squirrels. J. Exp. Biol. 185: 17-24.  PDF

Funk, GD, GN Sholomenko, IJ Valenzuela, JD Steeves, and WK Milsom. 1993. Coordination of wing beat and respiration in canada geese during free flight. J. Exp. Biol. 175: 317-323.  PDF

For a complete list of publications, see Community of Science CV

Last updated: 15 November, 2007

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