because the same fish is tested repeatedly (Tamura & Buelke-Sam,
1992). Most statistical software will have this test. If not, one-way
ANOVA tests are sufficient. If students are not familiar with this,
then use means and standard errors with graphs to show the data.
If the standard error bars overlap, the means are not statistically
Observations of live animal behavior provide an exciting context for
understanding physiological mechanisms and anatomical structures
involved in learning and memory. Students may have questions
about the process of learning and the animal’s ability to learn under
new conditions. In answering these student-generated questions, the
experimental procedure described meets four basic goals of psychology research (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2014): description (what is
happening), explanation (why is it happening), prediction (will it happen again), and control (how can it be changed).
Numerous online sources on environmental chemical exposures, especially in students, can compare how chemicals in air,
water, and food may impact their own lives. The message learned
through this inquiry-based approach is that environmental chemicals have profound, real-world effects on animals and, by extension, people. It is our experience that some students develop
research questions that have not been addressed previously and,
therefore, make a real contribution to science.
Learning and memory experiments can be applied to ecology.
For example, how is spatial learning important in migration, foraging, or predator–prey relationships? Through comparison of
multiple fish species or fish vs. human, students learn basic concepts and principles of living organisms as they relate to learning
and memory (e.g., brain structure and function, impact of sensory
motor inputs to regulating behavior, and the new field of cognition ecology; Healy & Jones, 2002). A unit in genetics may find
use for experiments in learning; for example, do different strains
of zebrafish learn differently? What happens to the offspring if
Average longest string correction for task 1
Number of fish to complete task 2
Average number of trails to complete task 1
The relationship between the average
number of trails taken for fish to meet
criterion and the fish type
Figure 5. Sample student data. Sheridan Schaffer (Greendale High School) compared two fish species (A). Brianna Karweick
(Seymour Community High School) studied the effect of developmental nicotine exposure on adult learning (B). Amanda
Linskins (Seymour Community High School) examined the effect of only embryonic (Y-C) vs. lifelong (Y) exposure to tartrazine/
yellow dye 5 (C, D). Parental permission to publish these graphs was provided. (A) Number of trials for fish of different species
to reach criterion for first task. (B) Number of trials to successfully complete task 1 after developmental exposure to nicotine.
(C) Longest string of incorrect trials for task 1 (data for task 2 not shown) in fish exposed to developmental or lifetime
concentrations of tartrazine. (D) Number of fish exposed to developmental or lifetime concentrations of tartrazine that
successfully completed task 2.