A program that focuses on the scientific study of function, morphology, regulation, and intercellular communications and dynamics within vertebrate and invertebrate in animal species, with comparative applications to homo sapiens and its relatives and antecedents. Includes instruction in reproduction, growth, lactation, digestion, performance, behavioral adaptation, sensory perception, motor action, phylogenetics, biotic and abiotic function, membrane biology, and related aspects of biochemistry and biophysics.

Animal physiologists study the form and function of animals, from their basic composition to their unique features.

Physiologists study how bodies work, from individual cells to entire systems. Their work covers organ functions, nervous system reactions, tissue structures, and everything in between. Animal physiologists focus their work on understanding the bodies of animals, which are infinitely varied and function in ways we can't always predict. Just like us, animals have had to adapt to their environments, developing heavy coats, ferocious teeth, or protective coloration to help them survive. Many of these functions are more mundane and point to physical differences, like the 30 beats per minute of an elephant's heart contrasted with the 150 to 300 beats of a rabbit's heart.

More aspects of human society than you might expect rely on animal physiology, from the way we construct buildings to hold livestock to the types of lab animals we are able to conduct applicable tests on. But more than that, sometimes we can harness some of their properties and use them to benefit the world.

Work in animal physiology may include...

  • Examining animals to evaluate their traits
  • Monitoring animals for physical abnormalities or anomalies
  • Assessing nutritional and dietary needs
  • Conducting tests to determine the function of a specimen
  • Evaluating system functions and hormone cycles

Animal physiologists often work in agriculture, where they may develop breeding programs for farm animals or monitor their health, or make recommendations for their care. They are frequently brought on as consultants in different areas of animal industry, and their knowledge of animal specimens makes them valuable in pharmaceutical research and testing contexts. Many animal physiologists pursue veterinary training, where they can apply their knowledge to helping animals stay healthy. It's also common to find animal physiologists working as educators in zoos or universities.

The best way to get started in animal physiology is to do an undergraduate degree in biology, with a particular emphasis on anatomy and cell biology. An Associate's degree in a field related to animal science can qualify applicants for technical roles. Some Bachelor's degree programs offer concentrations in animal science, which include coursework in nutrition, statistics, and chemistry. As with any career in animal science, it can be enormously beneficial for students to seek field experience through internships or volunteer work in order to get a sense of hands-on animal work. Those who want to manage programs or conduct research tend to pursue Master's or Doctoral degrees, which can provide increased opportunities for applied field research. Another common path is veterinary school; students who take this route get to work with animals in a clinical context, and learn skills like surgery and assisted animal birthing.

Understanding how animals work can help us to ensure their health and longevity in a changing world. If that appeals to you, consider a career in animal physiology.

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