FRI Biology Stream

Fish Behavior

animal behavior, cognition, ecology, evolution, mating system, statistics

our research

Our Research

An animal’s social environment is a critical driver of behavioral variation across animal taxa.  In the Fish Behavior stream, we explore whether the complexity and nature of social interactions within and across species influence individual variation in behavioral responses including cognitive abilities, behavioral syndromes, and stress coping styles. Students conduct experiments with local and semi-wild fish populations to test how social interactions influence different spheres of animal behavior: mate choice, sociality, anxiety/exploration, aggression, boldness, predator responses and general learning ability.  We offer students a fully integrative science experience to determine whether differences in social environment – particularly interactions between males and females - result in predictive learning and behavioral differences.


Our Strategy

We emphasize the fundamentals of biological scientific research, including critical thinking, communication and how to formulate a testable hypothesis. Students acquire analytical skills while designing, conducting, and quantifying behavioral experiments and communication skills via written, oral, and video reports on experimental results. Researchers use a comparative approach to understand how the mating system of fish (simple coercive vs complex courtship/coercive systems) can influence behavioral responses outside of reproduction, including behaviors related to anxiety/exploration, social discrimination/cognition, aggression, and learning. 

In the Fish Behavior Stream, researchers learn how to:

  • recognize, measure, and analyze animal behaviors
  • conduct live fish behavior trials
  • use R statistical programing for data visualization and analysis, and Ethovision tracking software

Our Impact

The Fish Behavior stream research involves behavioral, ecological and evolutionary disciplines and can lead to more advanced projects focusing on physiological and neural/brain gene mechanisms underlying behavioral responses.  We utilize poeciliid fish, a family of small fresh-water, live-bearing fish to understand variation in behavioral responses within and across species. Many physiological/neural mechanisms are highly conserved between fish and other vertebrate groups - including mammals - so the variety of social environments within and across species make them a powerful model system with translational potential.

Our Team

Profile image of Mary Ramsey

Mary Ramsey

  • Assistant Professor of Practice
  • Freshman Research Initiative
  • College of Natural Sciences
Profile image of Molly Cummings

Molly Cummings

  • Professor
  • Integrative Biology
  • Texas Field Station Network
  • Biodiversity Center


Course Credit
Research Outcomes

Coming Soon!