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Biology graduate student studies territoriality in fish

Olivia Buzinski examined how territoriality in cichlid fish modifies oxidative damage

| Author: Hadlee Rinn | Media Contact: Kara Owens

Olivia Buzinski, a graduate student studying biology, studied territoriality in fish to see how it modifies oxidative damage in the brain. Buzinski’s model for this project was a social cichlid fish, which forms social hierarchies with dominant males defending territories.  

In the project, male fish were placed on each side of a tank separated by a clear divider.   Male territories were established such that sometimes the territories were closer to the divider and sometimes farther away. Buzinski's prediction that higher levels of territoriality would occur when the territories were closer together was supported by finding an increase in aggressive behaviors under these conditions. In the future, Buzinski will use immunohistochemistry to label markers of oxidative damage in the brain for comparison to territoriality and androgen levels. 

Buzinski began studying this concept in Biology Professor Peter Dijkstra, Ph.D.’s lab after Dijkstra received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how androgens impact oxidative damage. With this, Buzinski chose to study territoriality which involves aggression because aggression is linked to testosterone, a type of androgen.  

Previously, Buzinski worked in labs with Biology faculty Thomas Gehring, Ph.D., and Daelyn Woolnough, Ph.D., as an undergraduate student. In Dijkstra's lab, Buzinski is working with undergraduate students to replicate the experiment to increase the sample size. 

This story is brought to you by the  Office of Research and Graduate Studies.