Marshmallow Test

20 09 2013

Used this in class this week; may not be typical applied ethology but just great for displacement activities, intention movements and even some stereotypies (plus cute as anything).

“Rat Park” and how misery promotes addiction

19 09 2013

My old friend Pete from way back just reminded me of this classic work on enriched (normal) versus isolated, non-enriched (thus miserable, screwed up) rats, via a blog article he found. I’ve read many accounts of this cool-looking work (including the Wiki piece); really about time I read the original papers…

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Surprise bouquet!

18 09 2013

This just arrived from Charlie! I commented on her draft Nature MS last week (on health issues in pedigree dogs), so this was a (totally not needed) thank you. If she gets it in, I’m sending her an even nicer bunch!



Kant be true

18 09 2013

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Emotional communication in elephants?

17 09 2013

In Behaviour Group a few weeks ago (while it was still summer, sob), we read a book chapter by Joseph Soltis (this is probably the journal article closest to it) on inferring affective states from signals made by elephants. I liked it on the whole – he did a good job trying to disentangle valence from arousal, and was honest when this wasn’t possible from the data. It also made me think about technological ways of quantifying signals versus using conspecifics’ reactions as the assay. The latter is a little low-tech and may seem less impressive than quantifying “fundamental frequencies” and “formants”, but it might be better at sensitively detecting the most relevant aspects of a vocalisation. Everyone else seemed a little tetchy with the work though – they were surprised it only focused on calls and no other signals (fair point, though I think the whole book was on vocalisations), and weren’t convinced that some situations deemed positive were really (like watching mating: fun, or frustrating?). This “bee-ware” sound is quite cool though, you have to admit (click here for more).

Emotional communication in elephants?

Civet cat coffee cruelty

16 09 2013

Incredible on many levels.
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Tomorrow’s weird job

15 09 2013

This is a big box of over 25 rodent traps, poisons and repellents that the Animal Welfare Institute sent to me recently. The good people at a major hardware retailers I should not name want to give all their pest control products welfare ratings (it’s pretty great), so I and a few others (including my one-time collaborator, the lovely Kate Littin) have to assess them. We have a call to compare scores on Tuesday, so I need to start poking pencils into traps tomorrow.