Sandra Binning

Dom und Sandra on board



I am generally interested in how fish (and other aquatic organisms) are affected
by different environmental stressors. These stressors include things like low
oxygen, parasites, waves and fluctuating water flow, high salinity, etc. I try to figure
out what behavioural, morphological and/or physiological effects these stressors
have on populations and species. I am especially fascinated by variation within
species (intraspecific differences) along natural environmental gradients.

Lately, I have become interested in factors affecting decision making and memory
in fishes. Although fish suffer from the stereotype of having a two second memory,
some species are capable of a remarkable array of cognitive abilities. This makes
sense: aquatic systems are diverse, complex habitats, and individuals need to be
able to discriminate between predators, prey, potential mates and competitors, and
make appropriate behavioural decisions about how and when to act depending
on the context. Most of my research on this topic explores whether parasites affect
the decision-making abilities of their fish hosts. Coral reef damselfishes are an
excellent system for this question: most are protogynous hermaphrodites which
live in small groups defending territories and nest sites. They engage in elaborate
social interactions, and need both advanced spatial and individual recognition
abilities in order to survive. Damselfish are also resident visitors of cleaner wrasse
(Labroides dimidiatus), who remove a variety of ectoparasites from their surfaces.
Individuals who do not get cleaned suffer from reduced body size and condition.
By manipulating cleaner densities on natural reefs, we can effectively control the
long-term exposure of resident damselfish to parasites, and then test whether this
has any effect on different aspects of fish cognition, behaviour and physiology.

I joined the Bshary lab as a post-doc in mid-2014 and will be working in
collaboration with Dr. Lexa Grutter at the University of Queensland in Australia.

I am also working on a number of ongoing projects with collaborators from
around the world:

  • Recovery from parasites as a selective pressure for the evolution
    of migration

    with Dr. Allison Shaw, University of Minnesota
  • Personality, aerobic capacity and physiological stress responses
    of Japanese flounder in different salinities

    with Prof. Weiqun Lu and Mr. Emmanuel Rupia, Shanghai Ocean University,
    Dr. Dominique Roche, University of Neuchatel
  •  Assembly-rules and trait-based community structure in Eastern
    Pacific reef fishes

    with Dr. Alejandro Perez-Matus, Centre for Marine Conservation, Chile
  • Policies and practices surrounding data archiving and sharing
    with Dr. Dominique Roche, University of Neuchatel, Dr. Loeske Kruuk,
    University of Edinburgh and Dr. Robert Lanfear, Macquarie University
  • Direct and indirect estimates of maximum metabolic rates in fishes
    with Dr. Dominique Roche, University of Neuchatel, Dr. Timothy Clark,
    Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Effects of waves and exercise training on aerobic and anaerobic
    performance in fishes

    with Dr. Jodie Rummer, James Cook University, Dr. Dominique Roche,
    University of Neuchatel
  • Description of the monogenean parasite fauna in damselfishes
    of the Great Barrier Reef

    with Dr. Edgar Mendoza-Franco, Universidad Autónoma de Campeche,
    Mexico, Dr. Dominique Roche, University of Neuchatel

For more information on past projects, please visit my website at:


2014 - Present

Post-Doctoral Researcher in Eco-Ethology

Collaborators: Prof. Redouan Bshary and Prof. Alexandra Grutter
University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
University of Queensland, Australia

2010 - 2014

PhD in Marine Ecology

Supervisors: Prof. J. Scott Keogh and Dr. Patricia R. Y. Backwell
Thesis: The effects of biotic and abiotic factors on fish swimming
The Australian National University, Australia
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australia


Master of Science in Biology (Aquatic Ecology)

Prof. Lauren J. Chapman
Thesis: Specialized morphology for a generalist diet: spatial and seasonal surveys reveal Liem's Paradox in an African cichlid fish
McGill University, Canada


Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Biology

Supervisor: Dr. Frédéric Guichard
Thesis: Density-dependent succession in Caribbean seagrass communities
McGill University, Canada


22) Shaw AK, Binning SA (In Press).
Migratory recovery from infection as a selective pressure for the
evolution of migration.
The American Naturalist .

21)  Wagner ELE*, Roche DG*, Binning SA*, Wismer S, Bshary R (2015)
Temporal comparison and predictors or fish species abundance and
richness on undisturbed coral reef patches.
PeerJ. 3:e1459 doi:10.7717/peerj.1459
* equal contributions  

20) Roche DG, Kruuk LEB, Lanfear R, Binning SA (2015).
Public data archiving in ecology and evolution: how well are we doing?
PLoS Biology . 13:e1002295.  doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002295

19) Binning SA, Ros AFH, Nusbaumer D, Roche DG (2015).
Physiolgical plasticity to water flow habitat in the damselfish,
Acanthochromis polyacanthus : linking physiology to performance.
PLoS ONE . 10:e0121983 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121983  

18) Binning SA, Roche DG (2015).
Water flow and fin shape polymorphism in coral reef fishes.
Ecology . 96:828-839. doi.org/10.1890/14-0426.1  

17) Beponis LM, O'Dea RE, Ohl VA, Ryan MP, Backwell PRY,
Binning SA*,
Haff TM* (2014)
Cleaning up after a meal: the consequences of prey disposal for
pit-building antlion larvae.
Ethology . doi:10.1111/eth.12257
* joint senior and corresponding authors

16) Binning SA, Barnes JI, Davies JN, Backwell PRY, Keogh JS,
Roche DG (2014)
Ectoparasites modify escape behaviour, but not performance,
in a coral reef fish.
Animal Behaviour . 93:1-7. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.04.010

15) Roche DG, Taylor MK, Binning SA, Johansen JL, Steffensen JF,
Domenici P (2014).
Unsteady water flow affects swimming energetics in a labriform fish
(Cymatogaster aggregata).
Journal of Experimental Biology. 217:414-422. doi:10.1242/jeb.085811

14) Roche DG, Lanfear R, Binning SA, Schwanz LE, Cain KE, Haff TM,
Kokko H, Jennions MD, Kruuk LEB (2014).
Troubleshooting public data archiving: suggestions to increase participation.
PLoS Biology . 12: e1001779. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001779  

13) Binning SA, Roche DG, Fulton CJ (2014).
Localised intraspecific variation in the swimming phenotype of a
coral reef fish across different wave exposures.
Oecologia . 174:623-630. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2794-5

12) Roche DG, Binning SA, Strong LE, Davies JN, Jennions MD (2013).
Increased behavioural lateralization in parasitized coral reef fish.
Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology . 67:1339-1344
doi: 10.1007/s00265-013-1562-1  

11) Fulton CJ, Binning SA, Wainwright PC, Bellwood DR (2013).
Wave-induced abiotic stress shapes phenotypic diversity in a
coral reef fish across a geographical cline.
Coral Reefs . 32:685-689 doi:10.1007/s00338-013-1039-8

10) Roche DG, Binning SA, Bosiger Y, Johansen JL, Rummer JL (2013).
Finding the best estimates of metabolic rates in a coral reef fish.
Journal of Experimental Biology . 216: 2103-2110. doi: 10.1242/​jeb.082925.  

9) Roche DG, Strong LE, Binning SA (2013).
Prevalence of the parasitic Cymothoid isopod Anilocra nemipteri on its
fish host at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef.
Australian Journal of Zoology , 60: 330-333. doi:10.1071/ZO12130  

8) Binning SA, Roche DG, Layton C (2013).
Ectoparasites increase swimming costs in a coral reef fish.
Biology Letters . 9: 20120927. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2012.0927.  

7) Ménard A, Turgeon K, Roche DG, Binning SA, Kramer DL (2012).
Shelters and their use by fishes on fringing coral reefs.
PLoS One . 7(6):e38450. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.003845  

6) Binning SA, Fulton CJ (2011).
A non-destructive method for measuring pectoral fin aspect ratio in fishes.
Journal of Fish Biology . 79:812-818. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.03070.x  

5) Binning SA, Chapman LJ, Dumont J (2010).
Feeding and breathing: trait correlations in an African cichlid fish.
Journal of Zoology . 282:140-149. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2010.00725.x  

4) Binning SA, Chapman LJ (2010).
Is intraspecific variation in diet and morphology related to environmental
gradients? Exploring Liem’s paradox in a cichlid fish.
Integrative Zoology . 5:241-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-4877.2010.00209.x

3) Binning SA, Chapman LJ, Cosandey-Godin A (2009).
Specialized morphology for a generalist diet: evidence for Liem’s Paradox
in a cichlid fish.
Journal of Fish Biology . 7:1683-1699. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2009.02421.x  

2) Roche DG, Torchin ME, Leung B, Binning SA (2009).
Localized invasion of the North American Harris mud crab,
Rhithropanopeus harrisii , in the Panama Canal: Implications
for eradication and spread.
Biological Invasions . 11:983-993. doi: 10.1007/s10530-008-9310-6  

1) Binning SA, Chapman LJ (2008).
Feeding ecology and diet overlap in riverine cichlids from western Uganda.
Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung Limnologie . 30 (2):283-286



Binning SA (2015).
Stressed-out birds make more friends.
Journal of Experimental Biology . 218:651
doi: 10.1242/jeb.112086  

Roche DG, Jennions, MD, Binning SA (2013).
Fees could damage public data archives.
Nature . 502:171 doi: 10.1038/502171a

Binning SA (2015).
The fast and the furious(ly maneuverable).
Journal of Experimental Biology. 218:3715. doi: 10.1242/jeb.112698

Binning SA (2015).
Life converges on solutions to swim optimally.
Journal of Experimental Biology. 218: 2663-2664: doi:10.1242/jeb.112565

Binning SA (2015).
Birds get crash-course in collisions.
Journal of Experimental Biology. 218:1618
doi: 10.1242/jeb.112219

Submitted Manuscripts 

Rummer JL, Binning SA, Roche DG, Johansen JL (In Revision).
Method matters: Considering locomotory mode and respirometry
technique when estimating metabolic rates in fish. Conservation Physiology

Rupia EJ*, Binning SA*, Roche DG*, Lu W (in revision)
Personality and aerobic capacity mediate physiological defense responses in a benthic fish.
Journal of Animal Ecology
* equal contributions



Sandra Binning




Room: D 104


Université de Neuchâtel
Institut de Biologie
Rue Emile-Argand 11
CH-2000 Neuchâtel

Tel. +41 32 718 31 20
Fax +41 32 718 30 01