The American cockroach and me!

Dissertation projects are a central feature of our bioscience degrees, a great opportunity to work on your own research project with support from the lecturers and technicians. Here, Trev Boreham writes about his project on personality in… cockroaches?!

With the back end of my second year looming and talks of dissertation projects in the air it was time to decide what I wanted to do my project on. I knew that I wanted to undertake a laboratory experiment looking at animal behaviour, I just needed to decide which organism to use. This urge stemmed from the second year module ‘Animal Behaviour’ which we were able to do our own behavioural experiment. I studied cannibalism in the American cockroach which was insightful and interesting (it also occurs, not pleasant).

One year on and I am in the company of the American cockroach once more but this time it was their potential to possess differing personalities that captured my attention. The behaviours I am hoping to establish are the boldness or shyness of individuals and sexes consistent across time. To examine this, many hours have been spent in the laboratory timing exploration of the arena, time spent sheltered and time taken to flee the safety of their familiar homes. This is often a tedious process but necessary if I want to produce a sufficient amount of data to draw reliable conclusions from.

Along the way I have encountered the odd setback with my project which have needed consideration. With the support from my dissertation tutor Adam Hart we have been able to discuss and iron these issues out and progress forward. This assistance is second to none and just knowing that advice is at the end of an email really relieves a lot of pressure.

I currently have a few more weeks of data collection then I can really get my teeth into the results and discussion. I have discovered that starting my dissertation early has reduced the pressure coming into semester two with other assignment deadlines due around and close to my dissertation deadline.

The experience of undertaking a science project of this scale has been very rewarding so far and I am looking forward to the end product.

Trevor Boreham, BSc Biology final year student

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