Flora Clark

Research Interests

My pronouns are she/her.

Many fish are heavily reliant on visual information to make sense of their environment and survive within it. Vision influences a huge range of behaviours in different fish, including sexual selection in sticklebacks, predation in sunfish, predator avoidance in minnows, foraging in salmonids and navigation in butterflyfish. But accessing visual information is heavily dependent on visibility conditions in the water, which can vary greatly and be influenced by a range of factors (e.g. time of day, wave action, etc.). High levels of turbidity can greatly reduce fishes’ ability to perceive objects in the environment around them, potentially altering visual cues they may be relying on to know where they are in space. The proposed project aims to shed more light on how the spatial cognition abilities of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) are affected by access to visual information. The ability of fish to learn to complete a complex maze, comprised of a series of branches, will be used to test whether learning rate and accuracy changes in the following experimental conditions: 1) no visual cues in clear water, 2) visual cues in clear water, 3) no visual cues in turbid water, 4) visual cues in turbid water. The ability for fish to navigate through turbid waters is important as we seek to understand the effects of human-induced turbidity. If fish are less able to navigate in turbid conditions, this will have long-term fitness implications due to current increases in the prevalence and intensity of anthropogenically induced turbidity.

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