Carole Lee

Department: Biosciences
Discipline: Biosciences

Project Summary

Research topic

My project investigates the effects of environmental change on features  of the behaviour and physiology that are indicators of wellbeing of laboratory zebrafish. Currently environmental enrichment is being purported as the solution to improving the wellbeing of laboratory zebrafish that are typically housed in bare tanks. However, in this study I hypothesise that significant welfare benefits can be achieved through simpler and more practicably husbandry practices that are perhaps better suited to current practise in the housing and maintenance of zebrafish in research laboratories. I will evaluate the effects of simple environmental changes on a range of behavioural and physiological endpoints and determine how often these changes are needed to maintain these measures (physiology and behaviour) of fish wellbeing.

Why this is important

Understanding the effects of environmental surroundings on zebrafish will not only provide an important opportunity to develop methods on how to recognise and measure wellbeing in laboratory fish but can also be used to encourage practise to improve housing and husbandry techniques and promote best practice amongst facility managers. Improved welfare will mean that zebrafish function more optimally, with likely improved reliability of research data and furthermore help drive reduction in the number of fish required for each experiment as well as reducing the likelihood of needing to repeat experiments. This research contributes directly to the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) by reducing the number of experimental fish required and in parallel refining animal welfare.

Practical implications

Data from this project will be used to provide recommendations to the scientific community on how  best to maintain laboratory zebrafish with a focus on mitigating against stress, optimising life history traits (such as growth and fecundity) and improving scientific validity. Findings from this study using zebrafish  are likely to have application for other fish species, including other captive maintained species (e.g. laboratory and public aquaria) and those species economically important to aquaculture and the aquarium trade. The work will also contribute to understanding of why captive-reared fish typically have lower fitness in natural environments than wild conspecifics. The study may help  also identify modifications of the captive rearing environment that can improve the performance of hatchery fish.

Supervisory Team

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Charles Tyler

Secondary Supervisor: Dr. Gregory Paull

Wider Research Interests

  • Behavioural plasticity and individual differences in cognition and behaviour among fish
  • Evolutionary history and environmental context of fish behaviour
  • Fish perception, learning and memory