Effects of Methyl-mercury on spatial-memory in Zebra Finches: Summary of first two weeks

The subject of my summer research has changed a bit since I originally posted my abstract at the end of the spring semester. I still am studying the effects that methyl mercury has on the cognitive abilities of zebra finches, but the main cognitive process I am studying is spatial memory. Spatial memory is especially important for avian species, since many food-storing and migratory birds rely on it in order to retrieve caches of food they have stored or to remember the location of where they migrate. Since the subject of my research changed a bit, I spent the first week or so of my summer research conducting a lot of primary literature search, trying to better understand the science behind what I was studying, and also to determine why what I was researching was important to study. This really helped set the framework for how I wanted to approach my research, and gave me a better understanding of the mechanisms at work.


Also during this time, I learned how to handle and take care of birds, since I would be spending the majority of my summer either running trials with them, or taking care of them in the off-campus aviary. I learned how to catch and hold the birds appropriately, and the proper care required to keep all of the birds healthy. Also during my time in the aviary the first few weeks, my partner Neil Huckstep and I began setting up the testing apparatus we would use for our experiment. We had to cut and paint 20 or so blocks that we would use to hold food during the trials, and determine the right materials to use to make the covers for the food.


  1. alexanderwilliams says:

    Hey there! I am doing zebrafish research down the hall from you. Not so different, right? In this post, you mention a spatial memory test. There was a recent study describing a spatial alternation task in the zebrafish where the researchers changed the location of a small food reward in predictable ways. I was wondering if you could go a little more in depth on the spatial memory test you are using so I could compare it to what has been used with zebrafish. Thank you and good luck!

  2. What a brilliant cognitive ability to study. I’ve always been intrigued by how species process their physical surroundings and function in relation to them. Was there a specific species of bird you dealt with?