Biology Without Borders


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The Call of The Wild

Ever since I was a kid, I had a big interest in animals and their behaviour. From domestic animals such as dogs and cats to crocodiles, hawks and apes, I have always loved watching animals and their particularities. I have worked with animals before, be it collecting on the field or dog training in the city, but this last year I was given the great opportunity to finally start working in behaviour research.

Since September of this past year (2014), I have worked on Ben Chapman’s laboratory group at the University of Nottingham with my friend Rafael (whom you may know from these posts on this very blog!). Luckily the focus of my research is a bit different from his so I won’t have to repeat that much of what he has already talked about here. Just as he said, the project we are developing is about why “individuals of the same species vary in their behaviour and life-history”.

At first, we conducted trials with two populations of sticklebacks to learn the ins and outs of the tests we will run in Scotland with the wild fish. It was very tiring some days but it felt good to be working on something I love. My aquarium was much simpler than Rafael’s because the personality trait I chose to do research on was Boldness, I also only needed one fish per test. Here’s my beloved aquarium during one of the tests:

Aside from one fish dying before we could run its second trial, the trials went really well and we had lots of data to analyse during winter break. The spreadsheets filled up beautifully, but now we will go do fieldwork in Scotland during the Easter Break in April. It will be the time to use all our knowledge acquired from the laboratory work, and from all the papers on animal behaviour and animal personality that we read so far.

In Scotland, I will be trapping stickleback fish from several different places on a stream running from the centre of the island towards the sea. I will take them back to our laboratory located on the island and run the boldness trials. I will also measure them and collect data on their armour. I hope to show the relationship between their different physical attributes and their individual personality traits.

During the research for the Literature Review I noticed how young, although also very developed, the field of animal personality is. I hope this research can further help the growing number of papers in the area. Hopefully, I will contribute much more to behaviour research in the years to come.

Henrique Ramalho Martins

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