Warren Porter



207 Integrative Biology Research Building

Research Areas
Bioinformatics, Conservation Biology, Ecology, Evolution

Warren Porter Headshot

Research Interests


To understand
1.    how spatially explicit climate, topography, and vegetation interact with ectotherm and endotherm morphology, physiology and behavior, disease.
2.    how low level contaminant/pesticide mixtures affect potential for survival, growth, reproduction and how that affects population dynamics, community structure and food web structure in time and space.
3.    how low-level contaminant/pesticide mixtures at environmentally relevant concentrations affect/alter developmental processes, neurological function (learning abilities and aggression levels), immune function, and endocrine function.
4.    the process of infection and the biochemical responses to bacterial and viral infections.

This past year has been an exceptional one for our lab in all three areas of our research.

Modeling Animal Landscapes: This has been the most exciting year ever. We documented our ability to design digital 3-D animals, animate them, insert them into computational fluid dynamics, then Niche Mapper™, then quantitatively evaluate on land and/or at sea their energetics, behavior and distribution in the past, present and future at local and global scales. 1) We were able to demonstrate this ability for sea turtles thanks to the excellent collaboration of colleagues Drs. Jeanette Wyneken, T. Todd Jones and Riccardo Bonazza and the remarkable work of my graduate student, Peter Dudley. Collectively we obtained experimental data to validate calculated sea turtle drag and heat transfer, behavior, energetics and distribution limits derived from designing sea turtles in 3-D, animating them, swimming them in virtual reality and computing their drag and heat transfer properties and use that information to compute current and future distributions across the globe as well as suitable nesting sites currently and in the future. We were awarded entry into the ANSYS Hall of Fame for this achievement using leatherbacks. Only one other academic research group in the world also entered that Hall of Fame this year. 2) We have also published a paper documenting our ability to reconstruct microclimates across the globe above and below ground typically within 1°C and as a worst-case approximately 2.5° C as compared to on-site measurements in Australia, Europe and North America.
Our recent work with leatherback sea turtles establishes our globally unique capacity to create animated virtual 3-D fossil or living animals of any geometry from initial creation to landscape scale energetics, behavior and distribution limits. Our new collaborative paper on tracking hatchling loggerhead sea turtles in the Atlantic and how their ‘riding’ sargassum gives them ‘hot’ islands in the ocean for faster growth and development was covered by BBC, Science news and Scientific American, among others. Our collaborative work contributing to the discovery of koalas hugging trees to stay cool was also covered by multiple global news agencies. Our Niche Mapper model made it possible to prove what they were doing was cooling them and how much it helped them.

Subtle Biological Effects of Environmental Contaminants: In collaboration with Dr. Fariba Assadi-Porter, the lead person in this research, we have a paper in Obesity that uses NMR and our breath biomarker technology to identify metabolic changes induced by a thyroid hormone related molecule that increases fat burning and induces weight loss in the absence of changes in food consumption.

Early detection of infectious or chronic diseases: We have a new paper describing the first clinical trial at UW Hospitals for early infection detection. It shows that our early detection of infection technology works in humans in a clinical setting. I am a founder and board member of an off-campus company, Isomark, LLC, that has licensed our early detection technology. Two other papers, again led by Dr. Assadi-Porter, use stable isotopes in breath to show PCOS women can’t oxidize lipids and the other confirms that we can use our technology to identify changes in energy balance and substrate utilization in real time. There are more than 3500 citations to our work according to the ISI Web of Knowledge.


Zoology 504 – Modeling Animal Landscapes
Zoology 400 – New methods in Environmental Toxicology
Zoology 985 – Seminar – Ecology

Note to Prospective Graduate Students:

I look for high intelligence, independence, creativity, and imagination in my students. I also look for broad interests, someone who likes personal challenges, and a synthetic capacity.

Opportunities in my lab are largely limited by time and the student’s capacity to learn.  We do interdisciplinary research and collaborate with faculty in engineering sciences, global climate and vegetation modeling, medical and veterinary sciences, and the physical sciences.

Graduate students currently supervised:
•    Stephanie Buxel-Florenzen – white nose syndrome and energetics in bats.
•    Megan Fitzpatrick, – Predicting Potential Habitat of the Endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana) through Mechanistic Modeling.
•    Paul Mathewson – Mechanistic calculations of the energetics, behavior and habitat utilization of polar bears in modern and future climate scenarios.
•    Javier Velasco – Toxicity of plasticizers, PAH’s and other toxicants due to plastic ingestion in Leatherback Sea Turtles.

Students supervised who have recently earned graduate degrees:

Julia Haviland -Impact of common low-level environmental contaminants on neurological, endocrine, immune, DNA methylation, metabolome phase portrait shifts and developmental processes in mice.

Lucas Moyer-Horner – Present and past landscape ecology, energetics, behavior and distribution limits of yellow bellied marmots and pikas in western United States.

Sue Vang, M.S. 2008

Mark Jankowski, Ph.D. 2007. Environmental toxicology, immune suppression and infectious disease.

Joe Meisel, Ph.D. 2004. How habitat fragmentation interacts with climate to affect distribution of insects and their avian predators in the tropics of Central America.

Auston M. Kilpatrick, Ph.D. Aspects of community ecology, including: mechanisms generating patterns of mammalian diversity, spatial and temporal variation in competitive interactions, and the coevolution of avian malaria and native and introduced Hawaiian birds.

Maria Fernanda Cavieres Fernandez, Ph.D. Reproductive and developmental toxicity of a commercial herbicide formulation in mice.

Christopher R. Tracy, PhD. Pattern and theory of geographic variation in physiology and body size in Sauromalus obesus.

Elizabeth Sutherland, MS. Dispersion of Timber wolves in north central Wisconsin

Selected Publications

•    Fitzpatrick MJ, Mathewson PD, Porter WP. 2015. Validation of a Mechanistic Model for Non- Invasive Study of Ecological Energetics in an Endangered Wading Bird with Counter-Current Heat Exchange in its Legs. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0136677. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136677

•    Dudley, PN, Bonazza, R, Porter WP. 2015. Climate change impacts on nesting and internesting leatherback seaturtles using 3D animated computational fluid dynamics and finitevolume heat transfer. Ecological Modelling 320, pp. 231-240.

•    Moyer-Horner, L., Mathewson, PD, Kearney, MR., and Porter, WP. 2015. Modeling behavioral thermoregulation in a climate change sentinel. Ecology and Evolution.

•    Ryan Long, Terry Bowyer, Warren Porter, Paul Mathewson, Kevin Monteith, and John Kie. 2014. Behavior and nutritional condition buffer a large-bodied endotherm against direct and indirect effects of climate. Ecological Monographs, 84(3), pp. 513–532.

•    M.M.P.B. Fuentes, W.P. Porter. 2014. Using a microclimate model to evaluate impacts of climate change on sea turtles. Ecological Modelling 251 (2013) 150– 157. •    Peter N. Dudley, Warren P. Porter. 2014. Using empirical and mechanistic models to assess global warming threats to leatherback sea turtles. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 501: 265–278.

•    Katherine L. Mansfield, Jeanette Wyneken, Warren P. Porter and Jiangang Luo. 2014. First satellite tracks of neo-nate sea turtles redifine the ‘lost years’ oceanic niche. Proc. R. Soc. B 2014 281, 20133039

•    Ofir Levy, Tamar Dayan, Noga Kronfeld-Schor, and Warren P. Porter. 2014. Biophysical Modeling of the Temporal Niche: From First Principles to the Evolution of Activity Patterns. The American Naturalist, Vol. 179, No. 6, pp. 794-804.

•    Kearney, M. R., Isaac, A. P., Porter, W. P. 2014. Figshare, http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.878253.

•    J. A. Haviland, H. Reiland, D. E. Butz, M. Tonelli, W. P. Porter, R. Zucchi, T. S. Scanlan, G. Chiellini, F. M. Assadi-Porter. 2013. NMR-based metabolomics and breath studies show lipid and protein catabolism during low dose chronic T1AM treatment. Obesity 21(12): 2538-2544.

•    Anne-Sophie Deville, Sophie Labaude, Jean-Patrice Robin, Arnaud Béchet1, Michel Gauthier-Clerc1, Warren Porter, Megan Fitzpatrick, Paul Mathewson and David Grémillet. 2014. Impacts of extreme climatic events on the energetics of long-lived vertebrates: the case of the greater flamingo facing cold spells in the Camargue. The Journal of Experimental Biology. doi:10.1242/jeb.106344

•    Peter N. Dudley, Riccardo Bonazza, T. Todd Jones, Jeanette Wyneken, Warren P. Porter. 2014. Leatherbacks Swimming In Silico: Modeling and Verifying Their Momentum and Heat Balance Using Computational Fluid Dynamics. PLOS ONE 9(10).

•    Natalie J. Briscoe, Kathrine A. Handasyde, Stephen R. Griffiths, Warren P. Porter, Andrew Krockenberger, and Michael R. Kearney. 2014. Tree-hugging koalas demonstrate a novel thermoregulatory mechanism for arboreal mammals. Biology Letters. 10 6 20140235; doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0235

•    Shu-Ping Huang, Chyi-Rong Chiou, Te-En Lin, Ming-Chung Tu, Chia-Chen Lin and Warren P. Porter. 2013. Future advantages in energetics, activity time, and habitats predicted ina high-altitude put viper with colmate warming. Functional Ecology: 27, 446-458.

•    Shu-Ping Huang, Warren P. Porter, Ming-Chung Tu, Chyi-Rong Chiou. 2013. Forest cover reduces thermally suitable habitats and affects responses to a warmer climate predicted in a high-elevation lizard. Oecologia. DOI 10.1007/s00442-014-2882-1

•    Juan P. Boriosi, Dennis G. Maki, Rhonda A. Yngsdal-Krenz, Ellen R. Wald, Warren P. Porter, Mark E. Cooke, and Daniel E. Bütze. 2013. Changes in breath carbon isotope composition as a potential biomarker of inflammatory acute phase response in mechanically ventilated pediatric patients. Metallomics

.•    Mathewson, P.D., and W.P. Porter 2013. Simulating Polar Bear Energetics during a Seasonal Fast Using a Mechanistic Model. PLoS ONE 8(9).

•    Dudley, P., R. Bonazza, and W. Porter. 2013. Consider a Non-Spherical Elephant: Computational Fluid Dynamics Simulations of Heat Transfer Coefficients and Drag Verified Using Wind Tunnel Experiments. Journal of Integrative Biology. 9999AL:1-9.

•    Fort, J., H. Steen, H.Strøm , Y. Tremblay , E. Grønningsæter , E. Pettex, W. P. Porter and D. Grémillet 2013. Energetic consequences of contrasting winter migratory strategies in a sympatric Arctic seabird duet. Journal of Avian Biology. 44: 255–262.

•    Julia A. Haviland, Marco Tonelli , Dermot T. Haughey, Warren P. Porter, Fariba M. Assadi-Porter. 2012. Novel diagnostics of metabolic dysfunction detected in breath and plasma by selective isotope-assisted labeling. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental 1162-1170.

•    Goktepe, O., W.Porter, and D. Pereira 2012. Comparing Bioenergetics Models of Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) Fish Consumption. Waterbirds, 35(sp1):91-102.

•    Levy, O., T. Dayan, N. Kronfeld-Schor, W. P. Porter. 2012. Biophysical Modeling of the Temporal Niche: From First Principles to the Evolution of Activity Patterns. The American Naturalist. 179(6).

•    Porter,W. P., S. Ostrowski and J. B. Williams. 2010. Modeling Animal Landscapes. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 83(5).

•    Kearney, M.R., N. J. Briscoe1, D. J. Karoly, W. P. Porter, M.e Norgate and P.Sunnucks. 2010. Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming. Biology Letters. 6: 674-677.

•    Bartelt, P. E., R.W Klaver. and W. P. Porter. 2010. Modeling amphibian energetics, habitat suitability, and movements of western toads, Anaxyrus (=Bufo) boreas, across present and future landscapes. Ecological Modelling 221 (2010):2675–2686.

•    Kearney, M., R. Shine and W.P. Porter. 2009. The potential for behavioral thermoregulation to buffer ‘‘cold-blooded’’ animals against climate warming. PNAS. 106(10): 3835-3840.

•    Fort, J., W.P. Porter, D. Gremillet. 2009. Thermodynamic modelling predicts energetic bottleneck for seabirds wintering in the northwest Atlantic. J. Exp. Biol. 212, 2483-2490.

•    Haviland JA, D.E. Butz and W.P. Porter. 2009. Long-term sex selective hormonal and behavior alterations in mice exposed to low doses of chlorpyrifos in utero. Reprod Toxicol (2009), doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2009.10.008

•    Porter, W.P. and M.R. Kearney. 2009. Size, shape and the thermal niche of endotherms. PNAS 106 (Suppl. 2) 19666–19672. (with appendix & supplementary material)

•    Butz, DE, ME Cook, HR. Eghbalnia, FM Assadi-Porter, and WP Porter. 2009. Changes in the natural abundance of ^13 CO_2 /^12 CO_2 in breath due to lipopolysacchride-induced acute phase response. Rapid Comm. Mass Spectrometry 23: 3729–3735.

•    Kearney, M.R., NJ. Briscoe, C O’Dwyer, DJ. Karoly, WP Porter, M Norgate and P Sunnucks. 2009. Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming. Biol. Lett. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0053

•    Kearney, M. W.P. Porter, C. Williams, S. Ritchie, and A. A. Hoffmann. 2009. Integrating biophysical models and evolutionary theory to predict climatic impacts on species’ ranges: the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti in Australia. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2008.01538.x

•    Kearney, M.R. and W.P. Porter. 2009. Mechanistic niche modelling: combining physiological and spatial data to predict species’ ranges. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01277.

•    Mitchell, N J., M.R. Kearney, N.J. Nelson and W.P. Porter. 2008. Predicting the fate of a living fossil: how will global warming affect embryonic development, sex determination and hatching phenology in tuatara? Proc. R. Soc. B. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.0438.

•    Kearney, M., Phillips, B.L., Tracy, C.R., Christian, K.A., Betts, G. and W.P. Porter. 2008. Modelling species distributions without using species distributions: the cane toad in Australia under current and future climates. Ecography. doi: 10.1111/j.2008.0906-7590-05457.

•    Natori, Y. and W.P. Porter. 2006. Habitat Evaluation for the Japanese Serow (Capricornis crispus) by Energetics Landscape Modeling. Ecol. Applications. Ecological Applications, 17(5), 2007, pp. 1441–1459.

•    Kilpatrick, A.M, W.A. Mitchell, W.P. Porter, and D.J. Currie. 2006. Testing a mechanistic explanation for the latitudinal gradient in mammalian species diversity. Evol. Ecol. Res. 8(2):333-344.

•    Porter, W.P., N.P. Vakharia, W.D. Klousie and D. Duffy. 2006. Po’ouli landscape behavior, diets and distribution on Maui. Int. Comp. Biol. 1-16. on line doi:10.1093/icb/icl051

•    Michael J. Angilletta, Jr., Peter H. Niewiarowski, Arthur E. Dunham, Adam D. Leache´, and Warren P. Porter.  2004.   Bergmann’s Clines in Ectotherms: Illustrating a Life-History Perspective with Sceloporine Lizards.  The American Naturalist.  164(6): 168-183.

•    Maurer, B.A., Brown, J.H., Dayan, T., Enquist, B.J., Ernest, S.K.M., Hadly, E.A., Haskell, J.P., Jablonski, D., Jones, K.E., Kaufman, D.M., Lyons, S.K., Niklas, K.J., Porter, W.P., Roy, K.,Smith, F.A., Tiffney, B., Willig, M.R.  2004.  Similarities in Body Size Distributions of Small-Bodied Flying Vertebrates.  Evolutionary Ecology Research.  6: 783-797.

•    Kearney, M. and W.P. Porter.  2004.  Mapping the Fundamental Niche:  Physiology, Climate, and the Distribution of a Nocturnal Lizard.  Ecology.  85(11):  3119-3131.

•    Porter, W.P., J. Sabo, C. R. Tracy, J. Reichman, and N. Ramankutty. 2002. Physiology on a landscape scale: plant-animal interactions. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 42(3): 431-453.

•    Cavieres M.F., J. Jaeger, W. P. Porter.  2002. Developmental toxicity of a commercial herbicide mixture in mice. I. Effects on embryo implantation and litter size. Environmental Health Perspectives 110:1081-1085

•    Mitchell, W. A. and W. P. Porter.  2001.  Foraging games and species diversity. Annales Zoologici.  38 (1): 89-98.

•    Porter, W.P., S. Budaraju, W.E. Stewart and N. Ramankutty. 2000. Calculating Climate Effects on Birds and Mammals: Impacts on Biodiversity, Conservation, Population Parameters, and Global Community Structure. Am. Zool. 40(4): 597-630.

•    Porter, W.P., J. Jaeger and I. Carlson. 1999.  (Part 1) (Part 2)  Endocrine, immune and behavioral effects of aldicarb (carbamate), atrazine (triazine) and nitrate (fertilizer) mixtures at groundwater concentrations.  Toxicology and Industrial Health.  15 (1-2): 133-150.

•    Porter, W.P. and K. Paris. 1998. Creating a strategic plan and implementing quality management techniques in an academic department.  Office of Quality Improvement publication U. Wis., Madison.

•    Budaraju, S., W. E. Stewart and W. P. Porter. 1997. Mixed Convective Heat and Moisture Transfer from a Horizontal Furry Cylinder in Transverse Flow. Int. J. Heat & Mass Transfer 40:2273-2281.

•    Budaraju, S., Stewart, W.E. and W.P. Porter. 1994.  Prediction of forced ventilation in animal fur from a measured pressure distribution.  Proc. Roy. Soc. London  B 256: 41-46.

•    Tracy, C.R., W.R. Welch and W.P. Porter. 1980. Properties of air. A manual for use in biophysical ecology. 3rd ed. Technical manual. U.W. Laboratory for Biophysical Ecology. 41 pp.

Niche MapperTM

Niche Mapper™ is a patented collection of three mechanistic models that include a broadly applicable microclimate, ectotherm and endotherm model of heat and mass transfer and animal behavior. The microclimate model allows the translation of coarse spatial data, such as digital elevation models (DEMs), vegetation data, weather station data and spatially interpolated climate records, into microclimatic environmental variables relevant to the thermal and hydric ecology of organisms. These variables include air temperature, humidity and wind speed gradients above ground, soil thermal profiles and solar and thermal infrared radiation environments.

The ectotherm and endotherm models can use the output of the microclimate model, or user-collected data, to solve energy and mass balances for organisms contingent on the morphological, physiological and behavioral traits entered by the user. /Mass and heat balances are coupled, i.e. the heat balance specifies the mass flows that must occur through the gut and the respiratory system to sustain calculated metabolic/water loss rates that are dependent on the animal and local environmental properties./ The basic outputs include body temperature, metabolic rate and water loss rate in hourly time steps. These can be translated into functions of activity, dispersal, survival, growth and reproduction potential, landscape utilization patterns and distribution limits, as well as selection strengths in the context of spatial evolutionary studies.

The ectotherm model can also be used to simulate inanimate objects, such as ponds or water containers if the user chooses. Steady-state and transient (large thermal mass) scenarios can be run, and behavioral code is available for a range of organism behaviors (e.g. fossorial, arboreal, terrestrial, flying, diving, hibernating), although some ‘tweaking’ of the behavioral subroutines may be necessary for your organism. /The user may choose from an assortment of default geometries or may define their own set of geometries for the head, neck, torso, front legs and back legs.

The programs are Fortran executables. When used for landscape scale calculations, rather than point simulations, /there is a Perl program to communicate with MySQL databases for input and output and to call the Fortran executables. There is a set of user Niche Mapper™ instructions that is available as well as instructions for the use of MySQL to set up the databases and for Perl to interface the databases and the Fortran executable codes.
This site is under construction and we are working on developing more user friendly interfaces and a detailed manual. At this stage, please contact me via email for information about, and access to, the programs.

Businesses Founded: Potential Conflicts of Interest

Dr. Porter is a co-founder and advisory committee member of Isomark, LLC. The company is currently in clinical trials using stable isotopes in breath to determine onset of infection non-invasively much earlier than other currently available technologies. Dr. Porter is a co-founder of Niche Mapper, LLC. The company is in beta testing of dairynichemapper, a GUI interface that is a decision support tool for dairy producers to optimize cow and environmental properties to maximize milk production and minimize production costs. It utilizes a modified version of the broadly tested generic Niche Mapper model for wild animals.


•    GMO-what do we know lecture presented at Wednesday night at the lab
•    Nature’s Top 10 cutest animals in science for 2014
•    New GMO Study Raises Health Concerns
•    Science coverage of our current energetics research
•    Subtle biological effects of low level pesticide exposure, UW – Stevens Point lecture
•    Special Report: Pesticides in Wisconsin food and water, part 1: Female mice disabled by parents’ pesticide intake
•    Dr. Porter’s Radio Interview with KOPN
•    Subject search engine for the Web
•    Legal help for chemical exposures
•    Human exposure to chemical contaminants
•    Healthy alternatives in the home
•    Toxics in your backyard?
•    Links to sources of information on biological effects of environmental contaminants
•    Links to alternative agriculture sites and information
•    Link to high quality environmental contaminants measurement
•    Links to organic pest control
•    Links to Organic Lawn Care
•    Links to human exposure to chemical contaminants
•    Recent references to biological effects of pesticides
•    Creating a Strategic Plan
•    Chemicals and human development…latest data