Measuring Metabolic Rates: A Manual for Scientists

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Oxford University Press, May 14, 2008 - Science - 216 pages
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Measuring metabolic rates is central to important questions in many areas of scientific research. Unfortunately these measurements are anything but straightforward, and numerous pitfalls await the novice and even the experienced investigator. Measuring Metabolic Rates de-mystifies the field, explaining every common variation of metabolic rate measurement, from century-old manometric methods through ingenious syringe-based techniques, direct calorimetry, aquatic respirometry, stable-isotope metabolic measurement and every type of flow-through respirometry. Each variation is described in enough detail to allow it to be applied in practice. Background information on different analyzer and equipment types allows users to choose the best instruments for their application. Respirometry equations - normally a topic of terror and confusion to researchers - are derived and described in enough detail to make their selection and use effortless. Vital topics such as manual and automated baselining, implementing multi-animal systems, and the correct analysis and presentation of metabolic data are covered in enough detail to turn a respirometry neophyte into a hardened metabolic warrior, ready to take on the task of publication in peer-reviewed journals.

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As a researcher in nutrition and metabolism, measuring metabolic rates in humans has been a long and steep learning curve. I am sure this will echo with most students’ undergraduate and postgraduate who work in the field. Most textbooks provide a fair overview of the theoretical underpinnings of the measurement techniques. However all the related practical skills is generally a result of long hours in the laboratory calibrating and understanding the specific equipment one uses in his/her research. What has been sorely missing is a specific guide that connects the hard work in the laboratory with understandable and usable theory that will enhance the scientists’ own understanding of their work and the general theory in metabolic studies. If this text had come along when I was an undergraduate student, getting to grips with metabolic experiments would have been far more straightforward.
The real treat in John Lighton’s writing is his organisation of concepts and the layout and progression of complexity of the variables in metabolic experiments. He starts with the simple Gilson constant pressure respirometer and slowly builds up the theoretical concepts in flow-through respirometry, clearly laying out each gas exchange equation as he goes along. Very handy in a single tabletop book. John also provides some very nifty tips on presenting the data and includes the basic statistical tests that may be appropriate in certain situations. This book does what it says; it is a manual for scientists in the field; good background, good step -by-step understanding of some fundamental gas exchange equations and smart tips in respirometry.


1 A Brief History of Metabolic Measurement
2 Constant Volume and Constant Pressure Respirometry
3 Coulometric Respirometry
4 Constant Volume Techniques Using Gas Analysis
5 Aquatic Oxygen Analysis
6 Direct Calorimetry
7 Measuring Field Metabolic Rates
12 Validating FlowThrough Respirometry
13 Respirometric Data Analysis and Presentation
14 The Varieties of Gas Analyzers
15 The Varieties of Flow Meters
16 The Varieties of Activity Detectors
17 The Varieties of Scrubbers Tubing and Tubing Connectors

The Equations
10 FlowThrough Respirometry Using Incurrent Flow Measurement
11 FlowThrough Respirometry Using Excurrent Flow Measurement

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About the author (2008)

John Lighton is one of the world's leading experts in respirometry, the measurement of the metabolic rates of diverse creatures. He has published over 80 scientific papers in the field, and created many innovative methods and new approaches. His current research uses the fruit fly Drosophila as a model animal for studying thermal biology, hypoxia, and oxygen re-perfusion damage. He is currently adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and President of Sable Systems International.

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