Spanish Researcher Teams with Watts

Vanesa España-Romero, a visiting scholar from the University of Granada in Spain, is assisting Phil Watts (HPER) with rock climbing physiology research through June. Their main project measures the energy expended during ascents of a set climbing route on NMU’s indoor wall and monitors how that changes when subjects repeat the route once per week over eight to 10 weeks. Watts said this type of study has never been done before.

“We are also measuring changes in finger-curl force and handgrip force before and after climbing throughout the duration of the project,” he said. “In addition to the physiological data, we are collaborating with a sport psychologist at the University of Chester in England on some psychology assessments. We have students helping to get digital video recordings of the climbers’ movements on the route.”

España-Romero first contacted Watts several years ago while working on her doctorate. They remained in contact, but only through e-mail. It wasn’t until she arrived in Marquette for the winter semester that the “new future” of climbing physiology research—as Watts calls her—finally met her mentor in person.

“He is the best in this field; many publications,” she said during a break at the PEIF climbing wall. “I love climbing. It is my outdoor life. I wanted to study how to climb better.”

Watts added, “I’m considered the ‘old guy’ in this line because I published the first scientific review on climbing physiology many years ago. Dr. España-Romero seems destined to take over my role. She’s been very active in this area and also in the public health arena. I feel we are a very good match for this international collaborative effort.” 

As a side study, the two researchers and Watts' former freshman fellow, Megan Ostrowski, spent the NMU spring break at a popular climbing area in Arkansas. They collected data from 21 subjects who volunteered on site, including some NMU students who were vacationing there independently. They will test local NMU students who are non-climbers as a comparison group.


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Updated: April 16, 2010

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