Email of the week: Sam is the winner, just

14 10 2018

I was pretty confident I’d win with this:

Screenshot 2018-10-14 16.28.43



But when Sam countered with this, I knew I had to concede:

Screenshot 2018-10-14 16.28.30

All of this is us busily planning a “boredom testing” trial Sam plans to run in a couple of weeks, on large numbers of mink (about 80) living on a commercial farm in enrichment regimes differing in the number and novelty of objects. We’re exposing the mink to three olfactory stimuli as the probes, because these seem to yield the biggest effect sizes; and using tea infusers (which I was sure I had a tonne of from another experiment …) is a probably a neat way to do it.

And anti-text of the week

14 10 2018

DBAThe anti-text of the week came from Emma. Not entirely fair to classify it so harshly as she was asking a very sensible question about a very worthwhile thing. But the sheer grossness of the image she texted made me catch my breath. Here is a highly sanitized, tastefully blurred version.

The issue?  What counts as renal fat. Having killed 60 or so mice for their brains at the end of summer, we are now determined to get every last scrap of information we feasibly can from their bodies. And one thing we want to assess is adiposity. We already have their BMIs (from weight and length measurements) but it’d be nice to corroborate these with more direct measurements of fattiness. We want to see whether being very inactive (as in some standard-caged C57s) or very active (as in the intensely route-tracing DBAs) alters body composition in a way that could reflect or affect health.

Meanwhile, superb technicians Erin and Michelle are also using CT scans to look for arthritis in the mice’s spines, hips and knees. They want to find out if stereotypic behaviour is good, bad or indifferent for joint health, and whether our more inactive animals may have been that way because of pain. In turn all of this will help shape what we research next in differentially housed mice, hopefully for Aileen’s PhD.


Text of the week

14 10 2018

From Michelle:

Michelle text

And it’s great because it shows that her zebra fish have transitive preferences for enrichment (because previously they preferred grass to a bare tank, but they really, really preferred gravel to a bare tank).

I do need to write a longer blog about her great project, but for now these intriguing hints will have to do…

Celebration at the Delta

14 10 2018


Here is Aileen closing her laptop, having just submitted her NSERC scholarship application a couple of hours before the final deadline.

I’ve just closed my laptop too, because 5 minutes earlier I submitted a paper to Animal Behaviour, lead-authored by Aimee, on which Aileen is a co-author  (so she could put the MS submission no. in her application).

And Ian has joined us tired-but-happy three to celebrate, because he and Aileen also submitted a paper this morning, with the same deadline in mind. It’s been a crazy week (I’m drinking red wine because it matches my eyes), but we pulled it off!

Waterloo prof: third ever woman to win a Nobel!

3 10 2018



Proud great-grandmother

2 10 2018

Megan LaFollette, a PhD student from Purdue, gave our first CSAW Research Seminar of the semester last week. She did a fantastic job presenting research on making handling positive for lab rats by incorporating ‘heterospecific play’ (a.k.a. tickling). (Note to self – still have to write up my ‘rat ticking workshop’ blog from the ISAE...). She also gave the deftest presentation of the usually-mangled Three Circles that I’ve ever seen. All especially rewarding because, as Brianna’s first grad student, Megan is my very first academic grand-child!IMG_7072

Some of us then went to The Albion that evening, with Sylvie Cloutier (who’d flown in from Ottawa to run a rat-tickling workshop at the CAF with Megan the next day). On the way, we realised that Megan has a rat called Georgia, and of course I have a cat called Sylvie.  If only Sylvie had had a dog called Megan, it would have been perfect.




‘Cat faces’: third time lucky?

2 10 2018

Got this horrible email a couple of weeks ago:

Screenshot 2018-10-01 20.10.33

So that was out lovely cat faces paper just sitting in limbo for two months; and this after it had previously been turned away by Scientific Reports too, for not being about biology (since more about people than cats).

It hurts: I love this paper (and know it’ll get a tonne of media attention).  So, we licked our wounds, laboriously reformatted everything, and resubmitted to Animal Welfare a few days ago.  Journal No. 3, please be lucky for us….