IEC and a nasty case of Bristol Envy

31 08 2013

Early August saw me, Jamie, Becky & Carole all travelling to Newcastle for the International Ethological Conference, held in a giant glass Norman Foster slug called the Sage. With over 800 participants, and dozens of friends and colleagues there, the meeting was enormous fun (at times verging on overwhelming). Highlights for me were seeing Mike Mendl, Liz Paul, Melissa Bateson (who was organising the meeting), Suzanne Held and Hanno Wuerbel – friends for over 20 years now; meeting people I’ve long heard about and read, but never met before (Louise Barrett, Sergio Pellis and Kate Lessells); having my talk go well, in the “death” session organised by Dan Weary & Joanna Makowska & Huw Golledge (and being introduced by Dan, the chair, as “the Queen of Experimental Design” – may have to get that as a tattoo); hearing from UFAW‘s Robert Hubrecht that yes, me and Mike (Walker) did get a $5000 grant for our mixed strain experiment (phew); seeing Jamie chair a session with aplomb, and him and Becky both give good talks on their play and enrichment research; catching up with my former supervisor, Pat Bateson, and my intellectual heroine Marian Dawkins (and learning from her that chicks really, really like orange…); seeing Andy Sih and his lovely partner Kate; and hearing all the new work that’s emerging on the neurobiology and the evolutionary functions of emotions and moods (this gave me a severe case of Bristol envy, as that place is such a hub of cool fundamental work relevant to welfare).

Frustrations were that everyone is still sidestepping the feelings component of emotion (but maybe that all’s the better for me and Walter); that the one poster I sought out (of the 400 or so: it was insane) did not show what it claimed (that pets cats recognise their names: the experiment was too badly designed to say anything much); and that with this vast venue and multiple parallel sessions, there were some people I really like who I barely saw, save to wave at them as I went up an up escalator while they went down a down one…