Sarah Kienle, PhD

Sarah Kienle, PhD
Assistant Professor
High Res Photo

Assistant Professor of Biology



Bachelor of Science – Biology, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX (2007)

Master of Science – Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA (2013)

PhD – Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA (2019)


Areas of Research


  • Ecophysiology
  • Foraging behavior
  • Spatial ecology
  • Diving vertebrates
  • Life history trade-offs
  • Functional morphology
  • Mammals



My lab group broadly studies how animals work in the context of their environment.

Our research tackles broad comparative questions about how animals maximize fitness under different environmental conditions. To do this, we are highly interdisciplinary and combine the fields of ecology, physiology, behavior, functional morphology, and evolution. We use a variety of approaches, including deploying biologging instruments, collecting samples from wild animals, conducting spatial analyses, designing experiments with animals in human care, collaborating with zoos and aquariums, and analyzing specimens from natural history museums and stranding networks.

Research in the Comparative Animal Ecophysiology lab falls into three broad themes: 1) characterizing the relationship between animal form and function, 2) comparing life history trade-offs, and 3) examining plasticity in ecophysiological traits. Much of our work has been with mammals—particularly large marine vertebrates (leopard seals, northern elephant seals, and gray whales…oh my!)—although the questions and methods are applicable to a variety of systems.

We are always interested in recruiting motivated researchers at any career stage to join or collaborate with our lab.

Google Scholar Page

Research Gate




* = students

SS Kienle, J Powers*, T Kendall, B Richter, L Castle, G Lentes, D Costa, R Mehta (2020) Context matters: Hawaiian monk seals switch between feeding strategies depending on ecological context. Integrative and Comparative Biology 60: 425-439.

I Jonsen, T Patterson, DP Costa, P Doherty, B Godley, WJ Grecian, C Guinet, X Hoenner, SS Kienle, PW Robinson, S Votier, M Witt, MA Hindell, RG Harcourt, CR McMahon (2020) A continuous-time state-space model for rapid quality-control of Argos locations from animal-borne tags. Movement Ecology 8:

SS Kienle, A Cacanindin*, T Kendall, B Richter, C Ribeiro-French, L Castle, G Lentes, D Costa, R Mehta (2019) Hawaiian monk seals exhibit behavioral flexibility when targeting prey of different size and shape. Journal of Experimental Biology 222: jeb194985.

SS Kienle, A Berta (2019) The evolution of feeding strategies in phocid seals (Pinnipedia, Phocidae). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 38: e1559172.

SS Kienle, H Hermann-Sorensen*, DP Costa, C Reichmuth, RS Mehta (2018) Comparative feeding strategies and kinematics in phocid seals: suction without specialized skull morphology. Journal of Experimental Biology 221: jeb179424

SS Kienle, CJ Law, DP Costa, A Berta, RS Mehta (2017) Revisiting the behavioural framework of feeding in marine mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20171035.

SS Kienle, A Berta (2016) The better to eat you with: the comparative feeding morphology of phocid seals (Pinnipedia, Phocidae). Journal of Anatomy 228: 396-413.

SS Kienle, JS Reidenberg, TA Deméré (2015) Tongue musculature and functional morphology of the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus). The Anatomical Record 298: 660-674.

EG Ekdale, SS Kienle (2015) Passive restriction of blood flow and counter-current heat exchange via lingual retia in the tongue of a neonatal gray whale Eschrichtius robustus (Cetacea, Mysticeti). The Anatomical Record 298: 675-679.

A Berta, EG Ekdale, NT Zellmer, TA Deméré, SS Kienle, MA Smallcomb* (2015). Eye, nose, hair, and throat: external anatomy of the head of a neonate gray whale (Cetacea, Mysticeti, Eschrichtiidae). The Anatomical Record 298: 648-659.

A Berta, SS Kienle, S Sorbi, G Biannuci. A re-evaluation of Pliophoca etrusca (Pinnipedia: Phocidae) from the Pliocene of Italy: Phylogenetic and biogeographic implications. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 35: e889144.

Department of Biology

B.207 Baylor Science Building
One Bear Place #97388
Waco, TX 76798-7388

(254) 710-2911