Environmental Physiology Modules

HB527 – Environmental Physiology (2nd year undergraduate)

This module is designed to develop students’ knowledge and understanding of how the environment can influence human physiology. As such, in this module it is expected that students know and understand the fundamental physiology of all topics as they relate to the environment and be able to apply the physiology to sport and exercise situations with detail and precision.

Topics covered include:

Theory – temperature homeostasis, exercise in heat and cold and the influence of hydration/dehydration/humidity, sports performance in the heat, hyper and hypothermia and other heat/cold-induced injury, illness or systems failure, acclimation; altitude physiology and training, altitude sickness, acclimation to altitude; the Gas laws, physiology and physics of diving, diving types, medical problems, high pressure injury and illness; the travelling athlete (circadian rhythms, jet lag, sleep loss & air pollution).

Practical – 4 basic laboratory skill labs one week each conducted in groups over the allocated laboratory period and there to familiarise students with the equipment and techniques, dive reflex laboratory, self-designed experiment – 6 weeks conducted in groups over 2 hour laboratory periods and during non-contact directed study time.

HB627 – Expedition Physiology (3rd year undergraduate)

Exercise can constitute substantial stress and when performed in extreme environmental conditions, the extent of this stress is exacerbated. Humans can survive these harsh environments from a combination of their practical experience and technical expertise and due to the body’s adaptability to an environment. A scientific appreciation of how to prepare for extremes of environment and how the body responds to extreme cases of climatic stress can further prevent mortality. The Level 5 environmental physiology module (HB527) offers a very broad introduction to this sub-discipline of physiology. With this in mind, it has always been the intention that the level 6 environmental physiology module (HB627) took a different approach to the discipline, both in terms of the learning styles used and in its vocational relevance. The module encourages an understanding of and enthusiasm for applied human physiology in the context of climatic stress, but with strong applicability to outdoor pursuits, survival in the wilderness and expeditions.

Topics Covered Include:

Theory – Expedition planning, survival at altitude, survival in the cold, survival in the heat, expedition nutrition & hydration practices, navigation, weather patterns, conservation and access, sleep deprivation

Practical – Teambuilding, expedition leadership and communication, determining altitude tolerance, diagnosis & treatment of cold injuries, treatment of hyperthermia, physiological impact of dehydration, expedition menu planning, navigation techniques

HB710 – Applied Environmental Physiology (MSc)

This module examines the application of extreme environmental conditions to athletic, clinical and occupational populations, with emphasis towards exercise responses and methods to alleviate the negative consequences of these hazardous environments. A problem-based learning approach is integrated into the start and end of this advanced environmental physiology module to offer a novel and applied approach to learning. Further, a blend of theoretical study and laboratory practicals is used to improve competence in a range of sophisticated, physiological techniques. The module provides students with the opportunity to gain advanced knowledge and understanding of relevant contemporary issues within environmental physiology.

Topics Covered Include:

Theory – Tips for reviewing journal articles, precision of environmental physiology measures, case study designs in environmental extremes, heat vs. cold vs. altitude debate, screening  for performance at altitude, metabolism and hypoxia, measuring protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism in hypoxia, measurement of thermal stress, thermoregulation and heat tolerance, factors affecting thermosensitivity in different populations, limits to exercise performance in the heat, rethinking the traditional heat acclimation model for improved heat tolerance, optimising altitude and hypoxic training methods in endurance athletes

Practical – Precision of physiological & thermoregulatory measures, screening for hypoxic tolerance and performance using physiologic and metabolic markers, effect of uncompensable heat stress from protective clothing on thermo-physiological markers using a metabolic heat production exercise model, self-designed laboratory study

In addition to standard physiology laboratory procedures, experience the techniques of: capillary blood sampling, thermography,  muscle temperature, rate of heat production and derivative thermal balance equations, dynamometry, skin blood flow, pulse oximetry, cannulation and venous blood sampling, blood sample preparation, pipetting, rudimentary mass spectrometry, GCMS analysis, blood glucose turnover analysis.