Environmental Health

Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory

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.

Swimming paths of control (left) and copper (right) exposed fish demonstrate changes in swimming behavior

Swimming paths of control (left) and copper (right) exposed fish demonstrate changes in swimming behavior detected following exposure to metals. Such changes can impact ability of fish to survive.

(Credit: Holly J. Puglis. Public domain.)

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 computer monitor from a video recording setup from an experimental swimming behavior assay system

    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.

    (Credit: Puglis, USGS. Public domain.)

    Key Behaviors Studied

    • Avoidance and Attractance
    • Swimming Activity
    • Critical Swimming Performance (Endurance)
    • Predator/Prey Interactions
    • Reproductive Behavior
    • Feeding Behavior
    Screen shot of a computer monitor from a video recording setup from an experimental swimming behavior assay system

    Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri. 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.

    (Credit: Puglis, USGS. Public domain.)

    Screen shot of a video of attractance behavior of Asian carp when food stimulus is introduced

    Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri. 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.

    (Credit: Erinn L. Scott, USGS. Public domain.)

     

    Inclusion of a dye tracer to demonstrate gradient in a counter current avoidance chamber

    Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri. 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.

    (Credit: Edward E. Little - Contact: Holly J. Puglis, USGS. Public domain.)

    A rack of eight aquaria used for behavior modification studies

    Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri. 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.

    (Credit: Chris Witte - Contact: Mark L. Wildhaber, USGS. Public domain.)

     

     

     

    Contacts

    Holly Puglis

    Ecologist
    Columbia Environmental Research Center
    Phone: 573-441-2986

    Michael Focazio, PhD

    Environmental Health Program Coordinator
    Ecosystems
    Phone: 703-648-6808

    Geoffrey Plumlee, Ph.D.

    Chief Scientist
    Office of the Director
    Phone: 703-648-6403