Kathleen E. Fischer headshot.

Research Adjunct Professor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Campbell Hall 378; Volker Hall G133B
(205) 934-0259

Research and Teaching Interests: Biology of Aging, Sex Differences, Evolution, Ecology, Animal Behavior and Conservation.

Office Hours: By appointment


  • B.S., University of California Santa Cruz, Biology and Environmental Studies
  • Graduate Certificate, University of California Santa Cruz, Science Writing
  • M.A., Harvard, Anthropology
  • Ph.D., Harvard, Biology and Anthropology

Dr. Fischer studied rainforest canopy ecology in the remote mountains of Papua New Guinea (PNG), where she worked for five years with local villagers and mining companies to establish the Mekil wildlife management area and research station on Mount Stolle. Following her work in PNG, the Wildlife Conservation Society asked her to conduct a marine survey of Lampi Island in Myanmar. The survey resulted in a management plan for the Mergui Archipelago designed to protect natural resources and the traditional subsistence and artisanal resource use of the nomadic Moken people who live in the region.

While working at the Christensen Fund, Dr. Fischer helped to establish the endowment for the Christensen Fellowship at WCS, helped endow a similar fellowship program at the Missouri Botanical Garden and helped secure bridge funding for the Conservation and Research Center at the National Zoo. She has also worked on conservation and resources use issues in in the United States, most recently working for the Yurok Tribe. Dr. Fischer returned to aging research in 2010, when she joined the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Research. She joined the Department of Biology in 2014.

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  • Research Interests

    Why organisms age and why they age at widely varying rates are fundamental biological questions. Dr. Fischer’s work focuses on the comparative biology of aging using differences between sexes, between sexual and asexual forms and among different strains of the same species; between different species and across widely divergent taxa. Identifying the underlying physiological, cellular, and molecular mechanisms that account for such differences will provide insights into both proximate and ultimate causes of aging. Her primarily interest is in finding ways to improve health during aging, so that people live healthier not just longer lives.

    Historically, the focus of aging research has been lifespan, rather than the quality of life. Science, medicine, and public health have increased human lifespan in industrialized countries during the past century; however, this growing population of elders has not been able to maintain their health and vitality during their later years. For many, the net result has been a longer life to be endured in a state of increased dependency and debility. For our elders and for society as a whole, this is a pressing problem that must be addressed using all the tools at our disposal.

  • Select Publications
    • Fischer KE, Gelfond JAL, Soto VY, Han C, Someya S, Austad SN, "Effects of Long-term Rapamycin Treatment: the Impact on Mouse Health of Enteric Rapamycin Treatment from Four Months of Age throughout Life" PLOS ONE (submitted).
    • Richardson A, Fischer KE, Speakman JR, deCabo R, Peterson CA, Rabinovitch P, Chiao YA, Taffet G, Miller RA, Finch C, Rentería RC, Bower J, Ingram DK, Ladiges WC, Ikeno Y, Sierra F, Austad SN, "Measures of Healthspan that Might be Informative of Aging in Mice — a Recommendation," The Journal of Gerontololgy Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences (2014).
    • Tomczyk S, Fischer KE, Austad SN, Galliot B, "Hydra, a powerful model for aging studies," Invertebrate Reproduction & Development (2014, DOI:10.1080/07924259.2014.927805).
    • Zhang Y, Bokov A, Gelfond J, Soto V, Ikeno Y, Hubbard G, Diaz V, Sloane L, Maslin K, Treaster S, Rendon S, van Remmen H, Ward W, Javors M, Richardson A, Austad SN, Fischer KE, "Rapamycin extends life and health in C57BL/6 mice," The Journal of Gerontololgy Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 69 (No. 2, 2014): 119-30.
    • Fischer KE and Austad SN, "The Development of Small Primate Models for Aging Research," ILAR Journal 8:52 (2011): 78-88.
    • Fischer KE, Orsak LO, Letourneau DK, Siaguru P, "Research, resource use and sustainable conservation," Proceedings, 20th Waigani Seminar, Port Moresby, Papua Guinea, 1996.
    • Fischer KE and Chapman CA, "Frugivores and fruit syndromes: differences in patterns at the genus and species level," Oikos 66 (1993): 472-82.
    • Austad SN and Fischer KE, "Mammalian aging metabolism and ecology: evidence from the bats and marsupials," Journal of Gerontology 46 (No. 2, 1991): B47-B53.
    • Austad SN and Fischer KE, "Primate longevity: its place in the mammalian scheme," American Journal of Primatology 28 (1992): 251-61.
  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies
    • Louis B. Leakey Great Ape Fellow
    • Fulbright Fellow
    • Wenner-Gren Fellow
    • Sheldon Traveling Fellow
    • Distinguished Teaching Award, Harvard University
    • Member, Gerontological Society of America
    • Member, Society for Conservation GIS
  • Student Groups