‘Connectome’: not a word I thought I’d ever use in a sentence

19 10 2021

My lab’s skills continue to amaze. This is Lindsey‘s choice of sampling regions in the striatum, carefully selected from a new published ‘mouse connectome’ mapping striatal pathways to and from prefrontal cortex. This allows her to cut her workload to something manageable (since she has many thousands of sections), and also means she can test her hypotheses in a rather neat, low error way. Cannot wait to see what she finds!

Nice coverage of our parrot paper

19 10 2021

Media coverage of our lovely parrot paper has been less and slower than I thought it would be, but very nice none-the-less. Marc Bekoff interviewed me for Psychology Today, as did Mary Jo DiLonardo for Treehugger, and perhaps the pièce de résistance was Grrl Scientist’s coverage for her regular Forbes column on evolution, ecology and animal behaviour, which I think she was as thrilled as I was to see promoted to their main science page (apparently the first time they’ve done this!).

The downloads have not been too shabby either: over 2000 in under 2 weeks!

A website at last

9 10 2021

It’s only taken 15 months in my new department for me to write this!


Pandemic time scales differently from “before times” time though, can we agree?

Illegal and fun work visit

9 10 2021

This photo celebrates another slow-moving but cool project inching slowly forward. At the end of August I snuck in an impulsive visit to the UK (the first time home in about 2 years), and although the whole week was spent quarantining in my parents’ house, there was a steady trickle of semi-illegal visitors (paralleled by as many instant Covid tests: a lot of gagging and sneezing was involved). And one was Maria!

We realized we’d last met at my parents’ pretty much a decade to the day ago, that time to analyze her own mink mate choice data. This time we were on the same theme, determined to wring a paper out of Dana‘s mink data, despite an incredible 8 years passing since the experiment itself. I’d run a flurry of analyses the week before, and they confirmed two cool things: first, females can tell enriched and non-enriched males apart (visiting non-enriched ones more, strangely, but via multiple tiny visits instead of fewer, longer ones); and second, enriched males are more successful with females: they mated shorter latencies. This doesn’t perfectly replicate Maria’s original study, in that the number of matings was not affected (we think because Dana’s males were only a year old). But it does support the broad hypothesis that barren housing reduces males’ mating success (via libido, attractiveness or both), something Kendra had just found in zebrafish too. Really can’t wait to try this with mice now (not least because they sing)… (Very nice, too, to have had Maria in my life for about 20 years!)

Butterfly or mouse brain?

7 10 2021

Lindsey finds her way around the beautiful thalamus, as part of her mission to find out what’s different (maybe even dysfunctional) about stereotypic animals…

Congratulations to Aileen

7 10 2021

Her magnificent review of the evidence for animal depression was accepted by Behaviour (for the same special edition as Lindsey’s review of the neurological bases of stereotypic behaviour).

… and she just handed over the presidency of the CCSAW Student Chapter to Vanessa Pasquale. Thanks for a great couple of years at the helm Aileen!

Parrot paper out!

7 10 2021


Very proud of the work we all did on this. Meanwhile….

… it not really been picked up by the media yet, save for the Daily Mail … and the “Florida News Times” which mangled UoG’s press released to quite breath-taking effect: https://floridanewstimes.com/smart-parrots-need-more-stimulation-new-research-discovers/354081/ (Which is best, I’m trying to decide: the random “There is sex” line, or the implication that I was threatened by the World Parrot Trust????)

Out tomorrow!!!

5 10 2021


This is work that actually started around a decade ago!!! (But good things come to those who wait… and slog… and fight).

When forms are exciting

5 10 2021

I don’t love ’em, forms. But the “exam request form” is an exception – the final signing off of a student’s thesis is always a lovely step (though I do feel the form should be made of parchment, and signed in gold). Andrea‘s powerful Chapter 5 wraps up her thesis nicely. And it’s the end of an era – or very nearly!

And the rest of September

4 10 2021

As the nights get cold and the rain patters at the roof, it has to be said it’s been a tough September. Classes started, and I taught online only until Sept. 28th to allow students time to get vaccinated by mid Oct. (yes those dates don’t add up, and yes it has been bewildering). Zoom teaching a big class is so much easier this time around, and I’ve been offering bench-based Open Air Office Hours too (not many takers, but I’m glad to be doing it).

(Oh and I was pretty sure they didn’t like breakout groups … and yep, they really really don’t like them, so I won’t using them any more!)

That would be fine, but it comes on top of a (possibly insane) drive to push out papers before my NSERC deadline, plus of course the writing of the grant itself.

Still, a massive thanks to Lindsey (now a PhD student with me, did I mention that?) for re-analysing Basma‘s data and turning it into a paper (once again enriched mice are more sociable; and once again, mice can tell each other apart by housing!)…

… and to Sam, for a paper to Zoo Biology inspired by his thesis (and Misha’s natural stimuli paper and Michelle’s fish results: it’s been a multi-species pot pourri)…

… and last but not least, to Michelle as we pulled late late after late night last week, writing on consciousness and fish:

October’s probably going to be a grind too, and then I hope to sleep. A lot.