Ready, set….go!

Since we finally have our fish room up and running here, and some students working in the lab we have started several fish swimming projects. Nicole, Shannon and Tim have been collaborating, swimming 5 species of fish that vary in their diet as well as the habitat they come from (open water versus more rock dwelling). We started off by measuring sprint speed. This is a performance trait I used for my PhD, modeling my swim tunnel after Jay Nelson’s swim tunnel, who modeled his after the lizard work my PhD advisor Ted Garland used. Now that I am at Towson, and my lab and office are doors down from Jay, it seems things have come full circle as we have used Jay’s sprint speed racetrack. His is slightly different than mine, his uses lasers instead of infrared beams and has photocells to pick up smaller fish. But, they are pretty similar and the fish (most of them) responded as they should.

Sprint Speed measure (click to see an example of a fish sprinting)

My old sprint track at UCR


Sprint track at Towson









The one here also looks way cooler with the lights off and the James Bond style laser grid fish sprint through.



Today, since we have sprinted most fish, except a few that just don’t seem to cooperate, we had the chance to set up our high speed video camera and c-start system. We are using a Fastec IL3 camera and a Nila Zaila LED light system. The LED is really nice as it provides enough illumination without heating up the water, which is always a problem with halogen lights. Plus, with the LED, no more risk of clothes catching fire or burning the hairs on your skin. The fish are in a simple plexi container with 1cm grid and protractor on the bottom to get speeds, accelerations and angles later. To elicit escape responses we drop a metal weight. The metal weight is secured via electromagnet that we trigger to release into the water to give us consistent stimuli for c-starts. We set everything up today and obtained some good videos from one fish. This also inspired me to get the lab’s Youtube page up and running an put our first high speed video up there. Hopefully more will come!

Here is a picture of our camera, light and c-start set up.

C-start set up








Here is a sample c-start video, you can see the stimulus dropping in the top of the video and the fish responding before it hits the water.


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