U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri

About the Laboratory

The Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory develops behavioral methods in aquatic toxicology. These assays are used to characterize and quantify effects of contaminants on aquatic organisms. They have utilized these methods with a variety of organisms including larval and juvenile fish and amphibians.

Screen shot of a computer monitor from a multiple swimming behavior assay
Screen shot of a computer monitor from a video recording setup from a swimming behavior experimental swimming behavior assay system. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists can record swimming activity of multiple treatments simultaneously in the swimming behavior assay. Photo Credit: Robin D. Calfee, USGS.
A Rack of Eight Aquaria
A rack of eight aquaria used for behavior modification studies. Each tank is isolated from each other both visually and audibly. The fish in each of the tanks are continuously monitored and their behavior recorded by a close-circuit camera and digital video recorder. Photo Credit: Chris Witte, USGS.

Key Behaviors Studied

  • Avoidance and Attractance
  • Swimming Activity
  • Critical Swimming Performance (Endurance)
  • Predator/Prey Interactions
  • Reproductive Behavior
  • Feeding Behavior

Key Instrumentation and Capabilities

  • New (2018) 1,054 square foot laboratory facility
  • Two proportional diluters equipped with high-definition cameras for quantifying swimming activity
  • Five (3 small and 2 large) respirometers for measuring swimming performance
  • A series of aquaria equipped with individual light and temperature control and cameras
  • Five countercurrent avoidance chambers for characterizing avoidance or attractance to stimuli
  • Electro-olfactogram recordings (olfactory cues)
Screen Shot of a Video of Attractance Behavior
Screen shot of a video of attractance behavior of Asian carp when food stimulus is introduced. USGS scientists are studying the observed behavior to develop a targeted chemical control strategy for this invasive species. Date known, but time was estimated. Photo Credit: Erinn L. Scott, USGS.
Counter Current Avoidance Chamber
Inclusion of a dye tracer to demonstrate gradient in a counter current avoidance chamber. These chambers are used to understand how a contaminant, or any other stimulus, may affect natural attractance or avoidance behaviors in fish. Date known, but time estimated. Photo Credit: Edward E. Little, USGS.

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Page Last Modified: 17-Apr-2018 @ 12:13:30 PM EDT