Davis To Test High Altitude Exposure in Ecuador
John Davis’ ongoing research on the effects of high altitude exposure on humans takes him to Ecuador this summer, where he and two Alma College students will test climbers at the base of the world’s “largest” mountain.
While the 29,000-foot Mt. Everest is considered the highest mountain on Earth above sea level, the summit of Mt. Chimborazo, located near the equator in Ecuador, is the spot on the Earth’s surface farthest from the center of the Earth, says Davis. The summit is 20,700 feet above sea level.
Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador
The trio will spend June 26 through July 7 on the base of Mt. Chimborazo at the Carrel Hut, a stopping-off facility for individuals seeking to climb to the mountain’s summit. The primitive building is located at 16,000-feet above sea level, offers bunks and water, and is reachable by car. There, Davis and his student assistants will conduct health-related tests on the climbers.
“Our ultimate goal is to determine the physiological differences between people who live at high altitude and people who live at sea level,” says Davis, Alma’s Dana Professor of Exercise and Health Science. “Specifically, we will test individuals from both Quito, where residents live at 9,000 feet above sea level, and Guayaquil, an Ecuadorian city at sea level. We want to see the differences on how they respond to high altitude.”
John Davis on Mt. Rainier
Gladwin senior Nathan Garvin and Brighton junior David Moilanen will join Davis for the research. They will measure lung function, test markers in the blood and conduct other exams. They also will look at acute mountain sickness with Ecuador physician Marcos Serrano Duenas, a neurologist interested in the sickness.
“People who live at high altitude tend to be shorter and more barrel-chested, which suggest they have evolved to their environment,” says Davis. “We hope to identify the differences of how high- and low-altitude natives respond to high-altitude exposure. Even though both groups live in Ecuador, the group from Quito should do better than those from Guayquil.”
Davis’ research will build on previous studies he has conducted in the Rocky Mountains on high altitude exposure.
Posted: Wed, June 10th, 2009 at 4:23PM