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Marine Science Graduate Program

Hugh Ellis, PhD

Professor, Biology

Hugh Ellis, PhD, came to the Biology Department in 1980 after teaching three years at Iowa State University.  He is a physiological ecologist and teaches several ecological courses as well as two of the preparatory courses for the Biology and Marine Science majors.  His research is in the energetics of birds, looking at such topics as energy budgets, migration, and diving.  He has been a visiting research scientist at the University of Hawaii, Sydney University (Australia), and the Archbold Biological Station (Florida).  Dr. Ellis is affiliated with the Marine Science graduate program and is involved with the Center of Comparative Physiology in the Biology Department.


AB in Zoology, University of California, Berkeley
MS in Biology, California State University at Northridge
PhD in Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville

Scholarly and Creative Work

Dr. Ellis' research is focused on the temperature regulation and energetics of birds of several groups: herons, seabirds, rails, and jays.  For the last several years, the primary focus of his work has been the physiological adaptations of Eared Grebes, a diving waterbird.  His lab has studied its temperature regulation, its energy budget, and the relation of its body composition and metabolic rate to different parts of its annual cycle.  Recent work in the lab includes a study of fatty acid signatures as a guide to Eared Grebe migratory routes.  Current work in the lab includes a study of oxygen stores in diving grebes and the intermediary metabolism of several tissues in these birds.

Recent publications:

Ellis, H.I. and G.W. Gabrielsen.  2002.  Energetics of free-ranging seabirds.  Pp. 359-407 in Biology of Marine Birds (E.A. Schreiber and J. Burger, eds.).  CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Jehl, J.R., Jr., A.E. Henry, and H.I. Ellis.  2003.  Optimizing migration in a reluctant    and inefficient flier: the Eared Grebe. Pp. 199-209 in Avian Migration (P. Berthold, E. Gwinner, and E. Sonnenschein, eds.). Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Ellis, H.I. and J.R. Jehl, Jr.  2003.  Temperature regulation and the constraints of climate in the Eared Grebe.  Waterbirds 27:275-279.

McNab, B.K. and H.I. Ellis.  2006.  Flightless rails endemic to islands have lower energy expenditures and clutch sizes than flighted rails on islands and continents.  Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology145A: 295-311.

Ellis, H.I., M.H. Hinton, J.R. Jehl, Jr., and S.I. Bond.  Why migrants are fatter than non-migrants: Evidence from the Eared Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis).  (submitted to Auk)

Work in Progress:

  • The relationship between BMR and body composition in migrating and staging Eared Greb with J.R. Jehl, Jr. (Division of Birds, Smithsonian Institution).
  • Metabolism and daily energy budgets of Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) with G.E. Woolfenden (deceased) and R. Bowman (Bird Lab, Archbold Biological Station, FL). 

Teaching Interests

Professor Ellis is trained as a physiological ecologist, so the questions he asks as a scientist are grounded in the ecological conditions of the animals he studies.  He teaches several ecological courses at the university: Ecology (Biology 460), Ecological Communities of San Diego (Biology 361), and for non-majors Ecology and Environmental Biology (Biology 112, cross-listed as Environmental Studies 112).  He also teaches general biology: Genetics, Evolution, and Ecology (Biology 190), and Organismal Biology (Biology 221), both for majors, and Survey of Biology (Biology 111) for non-majors.