226 Russell Labs
1630 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Phone: 608/263-9319 (office)
608/263-4344 (lab)


Lab Website


Current Opportunities in Research Lab

Postdoctoral Position Available

Three-year NSF-funded POSTDOCTORAL POSITION in the laboratory of William Karasov at University of Wisconsin-Madison to study molecular mechanisms of dietary modulation of intestinal enzymes in birds and small mammals.The production of digestive enzymes may increase with availability of substrate in the diet, and we seek to advance knowledge about underlying mechanisms of digestive enzyme flexibility.

For full information, please see this page.


Physiological ecology of terrestrial vertebrates.


Professor Karasov's undergraduate education in Biology was at University of Minnesota (1971-1975), and he was in graduate school in Biology at University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A. 1975-1981), where he received his Ph.D. From 1980-1984 he was a postdoctoral associate in the Physiology Department at U.C.L.A.

In 1985 he came to UW-Madison, where he is currently a Professor. His primary campus home is in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, but he is also a member of other graduate programs: Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center (METC), Department of Zoology, Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences (IGPNS).

Research Interests

Professor Karasov is interested in the physiological ecology
 of terrestrial vertebrates, particularly the ecological implications of how they process energy, nutrients, and toxins.

Nutritional ecology. --The relationships between the nutrient requirements of animals and the nutritional value of their food resources potentially affect diet selection, productivity, and survival. Professor Karasov and his students have performed laboratory and field studies on the nutritional ecology of several species of mammals and birds in order to explore the significance of nutrition in their ecology. This work includes studies of how antiherbivory chemicals in plants affect food selection, digestion, physiology, and population biology of herbivores.

Digestive ecology -- Vertebrates differ considerably in the types of foods that they consume, but little is known of the physiological adaptations required for effective utilization of alternate food types. Professor Karasov and his students are studying the digestive physiology of animals with different dietary habits
(such as carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, frugivores, and
nectarivores) and also how digestive features vary over the short-term (i.e., within a species) and between species (i.e., over evolutionary time).

Ecological energetics.--All organisms need energy,
and many activities of animals are centered around how to get, process it, and conserve it. Professor Karasov and his students are studying the energetics of free-living animals using doubly labeled water, micrometeorology, telemetry, and direct observation of behavior. They are documenting the physical, physiological, and behavioral factors which affect energy intake and expenditure, and the relationships between foraging behavior and reproductive success.

Wildlife Toxicology. --Animals living in or feeding from the Great Lakes are exposed to a number of pollutants, notably halogenated organic compounds and heavy metals. Professor Karasov and his students are participating in studies to determine the level of exposure of fish-eating birds and amphibians, and whether the exposure causes physiological and behavioral dysfunction and effects on population biology.

International and Other Activities

Professor Karasov has served as graduate advisor for students from around the world. Additionally, he has lectured, taught and done research in a variety of locations such as: Argentina, China, Israel, Taiwan, and United Kingdom.

Professor Karasov has served on the editorial boards of several journals: Functional Ecology (2002-2004), The Auk (2000-2004), Physiological and Biochemical Zoology (1998-2001), Ecology (1995-1997), and American Journal of Physiology (1993-2001).



  1. Karasov, W.H. and C. Martinez del Rio (2007).  Physiological Ecology: How Animals Process Energy, Nutrients, and Toxins. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 

Book chapter (out of 17)

  1. Karasov, W.H. (2012) Terrestrial vertebrates. Ch. 18 in Metabolic Ecology: A Scaling Approach, R.M. Sibly, J.H. Brown, and A. Kodric-Brown, Wiley-Blackwell, (in press). 

Journals (out of 173)

  1. Karasov, W.H., E. Caviedes-Vidal, B. Hartman Bakken, I. Izhaki, M. Samuni-Blank, and Z. Arad. (2012) Capacity for absorption of water-soluble secondary metabolites greater in birds than in rodents.  PLoS ONE 7(2): e32417. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032417.
  2. Karasov, W.H. (2011)  Digestive physiology: a view from molecules to ecosystem.  American Journal of Physiology 301:R276-R284.
  3. Karasov, W.H., C. Martinez del Rio, and E. Caviedes-Vidal (2011) Ecological physiology of diet and digestive systems. Annual Review of Physiology 73:69–93.
  4. Skopec, M.M., A.K. Green, and W.H. Karasov (2010) Flavonoids have differential effects on glucose absorption in rats (Rattus norvegicus) and American robins (Turdus migratorius).  Journal of Chemical Ecology 36:236-243.
  5. Cary Coyle, T.L. and W.H. Karasov (2010) Chronic dietary polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) exposure affects survival, growth and development of Rana pipiens tadpoles. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 29(1):133-141.
  6. Fassbinder-Orth, C.A., E.K. Hofmeister, C.Weeks-Levy and W.H. Karasov (2009)  Oral and parenteral immunization of chickens (Gallus gallus) agains West Nile virus with recombinant envelope protein. Avian Diseases: Vol. 53, No. 4, pp. 502–509 (doi: 10.1637/8688-031009-Reg.1)
  7. Karasov,W.H. and H.V. Carey (2009) Metabolic teamwork between gut microbes and hosts. Microbe 4(7):323-328.
  8. Jofre, M.G. and W.H. Karasov (2008) Effect of mono-ortho and di-ortho substituted polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners on leopard frog survival and sexual development. Chemosphere 71:1609-1619.
  9. Caviedes-Vidal, E., T.J. McWhorter, S.R. Lavin, J.G. Chediack, C.R. Tracy, and W.H. Karasov (2007) The digestive adaptation of flying vertebrates: high intestinal paracellular absorption compensates for smaller guts.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA 104(4):19132-19137.
  10. Karasov, W.H., K.P. Kenow, M.W.Meyer, and F. Fournier (2007)  Bioenergetic and pharmacokinetic model for exposure of Common Loon chicks to methylmercury .  Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 26: 67-685. 
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