Hello, my name is Elia Pirtle. I have recently completed my PhD in zoology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, supervised by Dr.s Michael Kearney and Christopher Tracy. My research focused on the effect of climate change on desert dwelling lizards – in particular the effect of hydration state on physiology and behavior, and the resulting role water dynamics might play in shaping species distribution and function. The dynamics of heat and water flux through the biosphere are fundamentally interconnected and together determine environmental and biological processes across vast scales. However, despite the physical ties between heat and water dynamics, the biological implications of temperature change are most often considered independently of precipitation change. Thermal stress is predicted to drive global extinctions of ectothermic species as high as a 20% species loss. Yet these predictions disregard the potential for simultaneous changes in precipitation and aridity to cause additional stress for ectotherms. With few exceptions, water loss rates of ectothermic species are positively correlated with temperature and can be substantial, meaning hydric stress is expected to increase with thermal stress. The goal of my thesis was to determine how species might respond to hydric stress brought on by changing climates. Using a combination of empirical and modelling approaches, I investigated the influence of water budgets on the physiology and behaviour of ectothermic species.
I am also a scientific illustrator who is passionate about helping make science accessible through art. If you need an illustration for a logo, a poster, a presentation, or a paper, or if you just want a nice painting for your office wall, you can email me at email@example.com. See the “Illustration Work” page for some examples of my artwork.