What Causes Stress in Us—and Animals?

Lessons from a Pandemic: When it comes to stress, we have more in common with wild animals than we realize, says a Tufts biology professor
In the video above, biology professor Michael Romero talks about the five things that cause stress to wild animals—and us. Video: Jandro Cisneros
June 1, 2020

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“Lessons from a Pandemic” is an occasional video series featuring Tufts faculty offering perspectives on COVID-19.

“We’d like to think of ourselves as being very different” from wild animals, said Michael Romero, a professor of biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. But our stress response to the pandemic has shown us “that the gap between us and wild animals is actually quite thin,” he said.

Romero studies stress in animals, focusing on understanding how the stress response can help wild animals survive in their natural habitats, and then using this knowledge to understand how animals cope with natural and human-created changes in their habitats.

He is the author of Tempests, Poxes, Predators and People: Stress in Wild Animals and How They Cope (Oxford, 2016), which examines the evolutionary roots of stress, reviews research on modern diseases of chronic stress, and explores the ways stress affects biodiversity. In 2018, Romero received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.