I can teach them nothing

28 02 2014

At our group meeting yesterday, I passed on a New Thing I Have Learned (from Becky), which is that logit transformations are great, especially when Box-Coxes don’t work (logits seem to be from a different family of transformations).

This is what they chorused in response: “Yeah we already knew that. And logits are way easier to back-transform”. My job is clearly done: I can retire and be put out to grass…

Seeing red

24 02 2014

Elke accompanied me, Mike and a light meter to our mouse rooms on Friday, to help us evaluate our “dark” phase lighting. We wanted advice on on two issues. First, is the overhead red light mice are chronically exposed to during the dark phase sufficiently dark and red, even in the cages with the greatest exposure? And second, is the same true of the clip-on lights that we have scattered round the room, and turn on for in-cage observations?. Being exposed to light during the dark phase can reset animals’ clocks and make their activity cycles start/stop at different times on subsequent days, so this additional light on observation days (plus the glow from the lab iPad, any phone etc.) might add noise to our data. (We scrupulously check data for internal consistency before analyses, and enrichment treatments & barren cages are physically intermingled so that patches of light/shade are never add systemmatic error; but still, it’s always nice to understand the issues better, and stomp on sources of variance where we can).

Verdict: the overhead lights seem pretty good, but our clip-on lamps are way too bright and yellow. Lee filters can provide a simple solution however (phew), especially “Marius Red” (787 in the samples below).

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What neuroscience doesn’t tell us about morality

23 02 2014

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Over the first two weeks of Feb., in our ‘logic slot’ my group discussed a Philosophy Bites podcast featuring Patricia Churchland on “what neuroscience can teach us about morality“: a promising-sounding choice by Walter.

These podcasts typically feature professional philosophers and so usually leave us little to critique in terms of the quality of their arguments. Sadly, this was an exception. A pervasive problem handicapping proper discussion right from the start was vagueness: morality was never defined. This seemed to allow Churchland to talk at length about oxytocin and pair-bonding, and to digress about social mores and manners: topics we felt were red herrings. Nigel pushed her at points as to whether she was making a naturalistic fallacy, but he didn’t get anywhere, primarily because of her persistent tendency to give politician’s answers that addressed either only part of a question, or a slightly different one from that actually asked. There were also references to Hume and Darwin which felt to us merely appeals to authority.

I’m sure neuroscience does have a lot to say about morality; for example about the types of theory of mind that allow us to imagine how things are for another person even if we don’t have an emotional bond with them; the biological bases of psychopathy; and the accommodations we might want to make for those with disorders giving them diminished responsibility. This was not, however, the place to learn about these. As one of the few women philosophers I was rooting for Churchland, but this podcast was just annoying.

Egg bill broken?

23 02 2014

Not 100% sure I get the nuances of this, but suspect it’s not good for chickens:

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A private zoo: never a good sign in a leader, is it?

23 02 2014

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Something’s happened to Luke

22 02 2014

Top: February 2013; bottom: today (same bed, same Sylvie)

Kitten update

Luke is huge

New-ish Chipotle ad

21 02 2014

It’s emotive, inaccurate, manipulative, and I love it.

Investigating cage size effects on mink

21 02 2014

The recent development of the new NFACC Mink Codes highlighted the near absence of welfare research on cage size, even though every law, code and guideline wants to stipulate cage dimensions. As a result, the Codes Development Committee (led by Kirk Rankin) has been motivating the industry, south of the border as well as in Canada, to fund research into the space requirements of mink and how cages built to the new Codes compare to the larger ones used in Europe.

I’m happy to do this work (as long as it’s on a grand enough scale that non-significant results can’t be dismissed as Type II errors, and neat, sensitive behavioural experiments can be incorporated too). The first meeting on this was in July (I never found time to write this up), where we started thrashing out the brief. I turned my ideas into a proposal over the Christmas break (& got some feedback on it from the ABW last week, presenting it in our weekly seminar slot), and pictured here is Round II: a meeting of the Joint Mink Research Committee, who coordinate research for the Canada Mink Breeders and Fur Commission USA. I’ve been talking for 2 hours, which is why I look a little careworn here, but it was an excellent meeting: intense discussion to refine the questions, critique the metholodology and try and optimise what could (hopefully) be matched by NSERC $$-wise. Just to highlight a couple of the members, Gary Hazlewood, in the black shirt, chairs the committee (and, very expertly, directs the CMBA), and Jeff Mitchell, to my left in the red braces, has been very hospitably letting us work on his farm for years.

As a bonus, Maria came along for the ride and to visit the auction, so on the way there we dealt with the last issues in Chapter 2 of her thesis, Chapter 1 on the way home: a good day’s work.


“Four male professors for every female professor in UK universities”

20 02 2014

Screen shot 2014-02-20 at 6.40.00 PMThis is in a country where “professor” specifically means “full professor”, so it reflects the ongoing failure of women to make it to the top. Good article on a new report and book here, courtesy of Jamie.

It’s official: I’m not a psychopath

20 02 2014

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Just took this interesting test sent by my dad. No-one working in the field of animal welfare is even close to psychopathy, because the whole field is so empathy driven. Nevertheless, since academia is competitive and I’m doing OK in it, it’s perhaps not surprising that I got the highest score of anyone in my immediate family (they were all at 25% or lower).

Here are a couple more titbits from the survey:Screen shot 2014-02-20 at 12.43.52 PM

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