Tag Archives: Culum Brown

Scientist interview: Culum Brown [biology/fish]

A couple of weeks ago we were telling you about a study which showed that not only do fish feel pain, but they also multi task and even have cultural traditions. We liked it so much, that we included Culum Brown, the study leader, in our list of featured researchers. He was kind enough to take the time and talk a bit with us, answering some questions about his research and how intelligent fish are.
ZME: In your recent study, you wrote that fish not only feel pain, but they also multi task and have cultural traditions. I’m not very familiar with this topic, but was there really a scientific dilemma on whether or not fish feel pain, or is it just a popular misbelief?

CB: Its an odd thing. The fact that fish feel pain is generally accepted by most neuroscientists, but there are always those out there who deny it.  For the most part they are either 1) old school or 2) have a conflict of interest (eg they work for/funded by fisheries). A neuroscientist once compared them to the Flat Earth Society. So i guess in that sense its like climate change; a few deniers puts doubt into the minds of the general public.

ZME: What about cultural traditions? What kind of cultural traditions to fish exhibit? Is this something exhibited by many/species?

CB: So social learning is wide spread in fishes. We have shown in the lab that information can also move between generations. In the wild there is evidence that migration pathways are heavily influenced by cultural traditions.  For example the failure of the North Atlantic cod fishery is partly due to us fishing all the older knowledgeable individuals.

ZME: I feel that fish are not given enough attention in terms of conservation because they are not as lovable or “cute”, or because they are dismissed as non-intelligent. What is your general opinion on this? Are people’s misconceptions about fish having a detrimental effect on conservation efforts?

CB: Yes we often refer to this as the “cute and fury” factor.  Fish lack it and that is why most conservation societies use pandas or koalas as their logo.  Because of this people often lack empathy for fish.

ZME: What do you think about the general status of fish stocks? It seems pretty clear that we are exploiting them at an unsustainable rate (to say the least). How will the fish stocks likely look like in 10-20 years?

CB: Fish stocks are in dire-straits. There is no doubt. Fisheries scientists have been saying this for 200 years. But rules are not made by scientists they are made by politicians. Politicians listen to the loudest voices (in this case fishermen). Its pretty sad, because this instant satisfaction of greed will destroy the worlds fish stocks for future generations. There will be no fishing industry if they keep it up.

ZME: What’s something about your area of study (or biology in general) that you think most people don’t know (and should), or think they know but are wrong?

CB: Obviously for me the no 1 theme is that fish are not stupid. In many aspects they are just as clever as us, and certainly just as clever as most other vertebrates.  That is my take home message.

A bit of background: Culum Brown is currently associated with Macquarie University, and he describes his interests as follows:

I’m primarily interested in Behavioural Ecology and in particular predator avoidance behaviour, learning and memory in freshwater fishes. I have conducted comparative research on the behavioural ecology of predator avoidance in Austalian freshwater fishes (Uni. Queensland) as well as examining social learning in guppies and salmon at the Sub-department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge. I also have an interest in the evolution of cognition and worked at the University of Edinburgh and the Smithsonian Institute on tropical poeciliids. In addition to this theoretical work, I have interests in applied research in conservation biology and fisheries management. These interests include conducting research aimed improving life skills in hatchery reared fishes utilising social learning protocols and environmental enrichment.

Featured Researchers: This Week in Science

We talk a lot about science and research, but we don’t spend enough time talking about the people who actually do the research. In case you haven’t followed our previous feature, here is where we share some of the most interesting studies from the week, and share a bit of information about the scientists who made them.

Scientists use fMRI technique to study the brain of novice and experienced writers as they write

Martin Lotze University of Greiftswald

Scientific Paper
Featured Researcher: Martin Lotze
University of Greifswald
Research Interests: Neuroscience, Emotion, Stroke rehabilitation, Motor Learning, TMS, and Functional Imaging. Since 2001, he has published 87 articles and is one of the most active neuroscientists in the field.

Saturn’s moon Titan may be older than Saturn itself

Kathleen Mandt NASA.

Scientific Paper
Featured Researcher: Kathleen Mandt
Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio
Research Interests: She has nearly a decade of experience in planetary research, six years of which were spent working on NASA-funded instrument teams. She has used numerical modeling to study atmospheric dynamics and photochemistry, with a special focus on isotopic evolution of atmospheres, and her career path was quite different from what we usually see.

“Working in planetary science is an opportunity to go beyond a single discipline and immerse oneself in a range of scientific studies without limits!”

Fish do feel and acknowledge pain. They also multi task and have have cultural traditions

Culum Brown Macquarie University.

Scientific Paper
Featured Researcher: Culum Brown
Macquarie University
Research Interests:  He is mainly interested in Behavioural Ecology and in particular predator avoidance behaviour, learning and memory in freshwater fishes. He has conducted comparative research on the behavioural ecology of predator avoidance in Austalian freshwater fishes (Uni. Queensland) as well as examining social learning in guppies and salmon. He has been associated with several Universities in the UK, such as Cambridge and Edinburgh. He also has interests in applied research in conservation biology and fisheries management.

X-rays image atoms during chemical reactions for the first time

makoto fujita university of tokyo

Scientific Paper
Featured Researcher: Makoto Fujita
University of Tokyo
Research Interests: His most notable papers focus on coordonation polymers, self-assembling molecular systems utilizing transition metals and the chemistry of isolated nano-space. His main goal is translating natural weak interactions into design principle for artificial molecular assemblies by showing the self-assembly of well-designed molecules into functional molecular systems.

Invasive ant has bear trap-like jaw which can propel it through the air

D. Magdalena Sorder ants

Scientific Paper
Featured Researcher: D. Magdalena Sorger
North Carolina State University
Research Interests: Ants! She initially graduated from the University of Economics and Business Administration in Vienna, Austria, and even took an MSc in International Business Administration, before she fell in love with biology. Her story is quite an inspiration for everybody to follow their dream – her dream is now following a PhD in entomology, focusing on ants.

Scientists develop an “unfeelability cloak”

Tiemo Bückmann Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Scientific Paper
Featured Researcher: Tiemo Bückmann
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Research Interests: His main research focus is on metamaterials and the exciting optical and acoustical properties which can be obtained through them. He has published a paper on invisibility cloaking in a diffusive light scattering medium, and of course, on the “unfeelability cloak”.

Strict diet doubles lifespan of worms

David R. Sherwood Duke University

Scientific Paper
Featured Researcher: David R. Sherwood
Duke University
Research Interests: His research is directed at elucidating mechanisms underlying morphogenetic processes in development. His lab primarily uses the model system C. elegans in research, and combines powerful genetic and systems biology approaches with live-cell imaging to address three main topics: Tissue Remodeling and Connection, Stem Cell-Niche Interactions and Nutritional Regulation of Late Larval Development.

Pesticides threaten bees, birds and worms alike

Scientific Paper: Worldwide Integrated Assessment.
Featured Researcher: Jean-Marc Bonmatin 
National Centre for Scientific Research (France)
Research Interests: I couldn’t find much info about mister Bonmatin outside for his published papers. Judging by those, his main research interest is honeybees, and in particular elements which have a negative impact on honeybees – be it pesticides (neocotinoids) or parasites.