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Zebrafish. 2011 Dec;8(4):191-202. doi: 10.1089/zeb.2011.0715.

Original research in the classroom: why do zebrafish spawn in the morning?

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Department of Biology, University of Minnesota-Duluth, 1035 Kirby Drive, Duluth, MN 55812, USA.


As part of an upper level undergraduate developmental biology course at the University of Minnesota Duluth, we developed a unit in which students carried out original research as part of a cooperative class project. Students had the opportunity to gain experience in the scientific method from experimental design all of the way through to the preparation of publication on their research that included text, figures, and tables. This kind of inquiry-based learning has been shown to have many benefits for students, including increased long-term learning and a better understanding of the process of scientific discovery. In our project, students designed experiments to explore why zebrafish typically spawn in the first few hours after the lights come on in the morning. The results of our experiments suggest that spawning still occurs when the dark-to-light transition is altered or absent. This is consistent with the work of others that demonstrates that rhythmic spawning behavior is regulated by an endogenous circadian clock. Our successes and failures carrying out original research as part of an undergraduate course should contribute to the growing approaches for using zebrafish to bring the excitement of experimental science to the classroom.

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