Education and Professional Positions

Kathryn Dickson, Ph.D., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego

Professor of Biology

Current Research Interests

Evolution and development of endothermy in fishes; locomotion and muscle function in fishes

Tunas, billfishes, the opah, and some sharks (including mako, white, and thresher) are the only fishes known to use metabolically derived heat to maintain tissue temperatures elevated significantly above water temperature (regional endothermy).  A major focus of research in the Dickson Lab is to understand regional endothermy in fishes, by addressing questions such as:  How and why did regional endothermy evolve by convergence among these different fish groups?  How does endothermy develop in tunas?  In addition, the Dickson Lab laboratory investigates swimming performance and metabolic biochemistry in fishes.  An integrative approach and techniques such as enzyme assays, electron, confocal, fluorescence, and light microscopy, immuno-histochemistry, mitochondrial energetics, swimming-tunnel respirometry, and high-speed videography are used in these studies.  The fish species that we study include California halibut, white seabass, green jack, chub mackerel, eastern Pacific bonito, several tuna species, opah, the shortfin mako shark, blue shark, and leopard shark.

Selected Publications

Sepulveda, C. S., K. A. Dickson, L. Frank, and J. B. Graham.  2007.  Cranial endothermy and a putative brain heater in the most basal tuna species, Allothunnus fallaiJournal of Fish Biology 70, 1720–1733.

Duong, Cindy A., Chugey A. Sepulveda, Jeffrey B. Graham, and Kathryn A. Dickson.  2006.  Mitochondrial proton leak rates in the slow, oxidative myotomal muscle and liver of the endothermic shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the ectothermic blue shark (Prionace glauca) and leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata).  Journal of Experimental Biology 209:2678-2685.

Dickson, K. A., and J. B. Graham.  2004.  Evolution and consequences of endothermy in fishes.  Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 77:998–1018.

Graham, Jeffrey B., and K. A. Dickson.  2004.  Tuna comparative physiology (an invited Commentary), Journal of Experimental Biology 207:4015-4024.

Sepulveda, C. A., K. A. Dickson and J. B. Graham.  2003.  Swimming performance studies on the eastern Pacific bonito (Sarda chiliensis), a close relative of the tunas (Family Scombridae).  I.  Energetics.  Journal of Experimental Biology 206:2739-2748.

Dowis, Hawkins, C. A. Sepulveda, J. B. Graham, and K.A. Dickson.  2003.  Swimming performance studies on the eastern Pacific bonito (Sarda chiliensis), a close relative of the tunas (Family Scombridae).  II.  Kinematics.  Journal of Experimental Biology 206:2749-2758.

Bernal, Diego, Darryl Smith, David Weitz, Gerald Lopez, Timothy Grimminger, K.A. Dickson, and J. B. Graham.  2003.  Comparative studies of high performance swimming in sharks: II. Metabolic biochemistry of locomotor and myocardial muscle in endothermic and ectothermic sharks.  Journal of Experimental Biology 206:2845-2857.

Honors and Awards


N Kim, R Ahmerov, (2003), NSF Collaboration in Basic Science And Engineering (COBASE), 10/1/03, 10/1/03, 10/1/04, $8,600.

(2003) Development and differentiation of locomotor muscle in tunas and bonitos. CSUF, 1/1/03, $5,000.

E Jones, S Murray, W Hoese, (2001) Environmental Biology in Changing Southern California Ecosystem. NSF, 9/1/01, 8/30/05, $400,000.

C Goode, (2001) NIH Bridges to the Doctorate Program. 9/1/01, 8/1/04.

(1999) A new method to test hypotheses about the development and evolution of endothermy in tuna. NSF Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education Program, 9/1/99, 2/1/01, $30,000.

R Koch, (1999) Beckman Scholars. Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, 1/1/99, 1/1/00.

(1999) Transformation of the Biology Major Core Sequence at Cal State Fullerton: Active Learning Investigative, Problem-Solving Modules, National Science Foundation (NSF) Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Program.National Science Foundation (NSF), 9/1/99, 9/1/02, $200,000.