Barbara Block is the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences in the Department of Biology. Her lab is based at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station. Her research focuses on how large pelagic fishes utilize the open ocean environment. Investigations center upon understanding the evolution of heat management strategies in tunas, billfishes, and sharks. Block and her colleagues investigate the cellular mechanisms underlying heat generation and force production in skeletal muscle, the evolution of internal heat production, and the physiological ecology of tunas and billfishes. The research in the lab is interdisciplinary, combining physiology, ecology, and genetics with oceanography and engineering.
Block and colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium also established the Tuna Research and Conservation Center, a unique facility that permits physiological research on tunas. They are employing new techniques in remote wildlife tracking and data collection, and molecular genetics to directly examine the short and long-term movement patterns, population structure and behavior of tunas and billfishes. The fish are highly exploited in international fisheries and effective management of existing biodiversity requires an understanding of their biology and population structure. The Block lab actively engages in research at sea to understand the movements and physiological ecology of tunas and billfishes and to gain insight into the selective advantage of heat production in fishes.