Rhea Storlund

PhD, Zoology

Thesis Topic

Circulation during diving: aortic bulb comparisons among marine mammals and cardiovascular responses in Steller sea lions


Dr. David Rosen and Dr. Andrew Trites


B.Sc. Biology, University of British Columbia
M.Sc. Zoology, University of British Columbia

Research Unit

Marine Mammal Research Unit


Rhea’s Ph.D. explores cardiovascular adaptations in diving mammals. She looks at this from two perspectives, anatomy and physiology. Anatomically, the aorta of marine mammals is intriguing as it has been reported to be enlarged in some species, but not others, and it is suspected to contribute to the ability to breathhold dive for long durations. Physiologically, marine mammals are known for their extreme cardiovascular adjustments to diving, in particular the low diving heart rates they attain. Rhea’s research seeks to examine how the structure and function of the aortic bulb is related to diving behaviour in marine mammals and to describe cardiovascular responses in Steller sea lions to enhance understanding of heart rate regulation and cardiovascular health. Evaluating cardiovascular anatomy, physiology, and health in marine mammals will aid in determining cardiovascular limits to diving which has implications for understanding marine mammal foraging ecology and the ability of marine mammals to respond to disturbances when diving and will provide needed insights into the care of marine mammals.

Research Interests

Marine mammal cardiovascular physiology, diving ability, and conservation



Contact Information

Email: r.storlund@oceans.ubc.ca
MMRU website: Rhea Storlund

Social Media

Twitter: @RheaStorlund