||Just before COVID-19 reared its ugly head here in the states, I came across a university lab doing some fascinating cichlid research on breeding behavior. Using Astatotilapia burtoni, a maternal mouthbrooder from Lake Tanganyika in Africa, as the model fish for the research, Dr. Scott Juntti’s lab is attempting to unlock some of the mysteries surrounding A. burtoni breeding behavior.
Dr. Juntti became interested in neuroscience as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, where he fell in love with life in the lab. After completing his undergraduate work, including stops at labs in Germany and San Diego, he began his graduate work at the University of California, San Francisco. There he began working in Dr. Nirao Shah’s lab, where he studied social behavior using molecular genetic approaches in mice.
If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you’re probably aware of my disdain for extraneous, anthropogenic (man made) noises in aquariums. Such noises occur in the natural environments (boat motors, industrial machinery) of many cichlids. Eliminating such noises is unrealistic. Reducing them is not. I used to have a sister blog called The Bio Stage (it’s coming back, btw). In that blog, I often wrote about the effects of anthropogenic noise on cetaceans (e.g., dolphins and whales).
I promised when I started the blog that I would bring you interviews with professionals from all aspects of fish keeping. Even though I am an amateur aquarist and this blog is for hobbyists, science regularly informs the hobby. Therefore, let me introduce Dr. Karen Maruska. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University (LSU). She received her B.S. from University of New Hampshire, M.S. from Florida Tech, Ph.D. from University of Hawaii, and postdoc at Stanford University. Her research uses fishes as vertebrate models to study how the brain controls social behaviors such as reproduction and aggression.All photos courtesy of Karen Maruska.
Let’s get started.
The Cichlid Stage: Your research revolves around fish, especially cichlids. How and/or why did you become interested in conducting research on fish?