Today was the first day with good weather in a while, and everyone took advantage of that to get their projects going full throttle. We didn’t reap too much benefit from that since ours has been in the lab, though at one point the weather did mess up a valve that allows running seawater into the wet lab. So we spent that morning bailing water in two-gallon buckets from the ocean into our tanks every five minutes; luckily that was fixed quickly.
Our project is on the Dusky Damselfish and its learning capabilities in novel environments. For the past few days we’ve been running our eight fish (courtesy of Dalton’s master damselfish-catching abilities) in our T-maze (built from scratch—or rather, chicken wire and duct tape). There’s a hole in the right side of the maze, which is the exit that the fish have to find. The times for the fish to find the exit has decreased from roughly two and a half minutes to an average of about ten seconds over 12 trials; now they pretty much head straight for the exit when we lift the gate.
This is the first independent research project that either of us has done, so it’s been both hectic and rewarding at the same time. We’ve been really anxious about how the fish would react to our “training,” and they give us a hard time sometimes, like when they absolutely refuse to return to their tanks, or at other times to move at all. But overall, they’re pretty smart fish (they’re getting harder and harder to catch, and keep finding new ways to escape), and have made us proud parents. (Rest in peace, Holy, Moly, Mackerel and Bob. And Momma Dukes. We swear we didn’t know there was chlorine in that tank! Anyway, beware the tank of death, whose previous victims were Paul and Riki’s entire tank collection.) We’ll be back in New York in a few days, we’ll miss the nice weather here (except of course the past week or so of storm and clouds) and the new friends we’ve made, but not the mosquitoes. Evil mosquitoes.
–Veronica and Marianna