Dipl. Biol. Nina Keary

(PhD Student)

Magnetic field perception of the zebra finch - a behavioural and anatomical study

Email: nina[dot]keary[at]uni-bielefeld[dot]de
phone: +49-521-106-2707
fax: +49 521-106-2998

Self introduction:

Since childhood I have been interested in animals and spent hours observing them in their natural habitat. So when I started to study biology at the University of Bielefeld I quickly focussed my research interest on animal behaviour.

In 2005 I spent 6 months doing behavioural observations on the chimpanzees of Barcelona Zoo. During that time I began to realize that observing animal behaviour alone is not enough. To understand why an animal in a certain situation acts the way it does you have to take into account the neuronal processes that lead to this behaviour. In order to understand these processes I returned to Bielefeld and started working in the neuroethology group of the department of behavioural biology since the research done in that group focusses on the neuronal aspects of behaviour.

The diploma thesis I conducted there dealt with the question whether non migratory zebra finches are able to perceive the earth`s magnetic field and if they use it for short distance spatial orientation. Apart from that I worked on the brain anatomy of these birds. Using neuronal activity markers like immediate early genes (ZENK and cFOS) I tried to find out which parts of the zebra finch brain are involved in magnetoreception.

The results of my diploma thesis showed that zebra finches can perceive the earth’s magnetic field and use it for short distance orientation. The many open anatomical questions concerning magnetoreception resulted in the PhD-project I am now working on. The aim of this project is to identify the receptor(s) and the brain areas involved in perceiving and processing magnetic fields.