Environmental Physiology class conducts research in Iceland to study environmental exposure on immune responses

 UNE faculty and students on Sólheimajökull glacier in Iceland.
UNE faculty and students on Sólheimajökull glacier in Iceland.

June 03, 2014

 Faculty and students hike Sólheimajökull glacier
Faculty and students hike Sólheimajökull glacier

In May 2014, Lara Carlson, Ph.D., CSCS, FACSM, associate professor of Applied Exercise Science (AES), took UNE Preceptor Christopher Toth, DPM, and a group of nine students to Iceland to conduct research to examine the influence of environmental exposure on immune responses following an acute anaerobic training session. 

During the spring semester, students Erin McGeggen '16, Occupational Therapy; Courtney Farrar'14, AES; Kaylee LeCavalier '14,  AES, Jonathan Lester '14,  AES; Paige Driver '15, Medical Biology; Jordan Drouin '14, AES; Alison Stanley '14,  Health, Wellness and Occupational Studies; Sean Powers'15, Athletic Training; and Michelle Reidy '15, AES, were enrolled in an environmental physiology course developed and taught by Carlson. 

The course focuses on various forms of environmental stress: heat, cold, hyperbaric, hypobaric, microgravity, and G-forces, on the human body. 

Similar to an Iceland trip in 2013, students participated in a research project at the base of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano and Glacier in Iceland. Much research indicates that an acute bout of strenuous exercise induces transient changes in cells of the immune system that may increase susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). 

Establishing a relationship between exercise and the immune response is important as athletic performance may be negatively impacted due to URTI following strenuous exercise. Most exercise immunology studies have been conducted in lab settings or thermoneutral environments, but very few involving the additional impact of a cold exposure. For many sports, in-season extends into the winter months or begins early in the spring.