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pigs faceWhat fish want: Investigating the interplay between preferred environmental enrichment, welfare and the reliability of applied behavioural research

 

Year: 2023

Andrew Vowles
University of Southampton, United Kingdom

Grant: £15,308


 

To improve laboratory fish welfare we must move past the assumption that "putting things in tanks" has some general value. Rather than haphazardly provide environmental enrichment, we need to understand what fish want and how their environmental enrichment preference influences their level of welfare and behaviour. This is important because millions of fish are used annually in behavioural research that is expected to be reliable and assumes animals are exhibiting realistic responses.

This project will investigate the interplay between preferred environmental enrichment, welfare, and behaviour, providing evidence to improve fish welfare and the validity of scientific data using a popular model fish species (the brown trout, Salmo trutta).

Objectives are to: (1) test trout preference for four levels of environmental enrichment, (2) quantify fish welfare when housed under different preferred environmental enrichment using a variety of indicators, and (3) conduct an "environmental change" experiment and compare behavioural results of fish from husbandry tanks containing different levels of preferred environmental enrichment.