26 01 2016

Danielle’s paper got picked up by the (really rather good) “your brain on porn” site!

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Unusual use of phylogenetic analyses

24 01 2016

Me and mine have used phylogenetic analyses a few times to work out the biological bases of welfare problems (e.g. in Carnivores and Parrots), so it was cool to hear of a novel application of these techniques last week: using the phylogeny of Eurasian languages to trace the origins of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and other ancient fairy tales. Turns out that some date way back to the Bronze Age!

Click here for a good write-up, here for the research article itself.

Visit to Queens

24 01 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 2.53.55 PMI went to Queens last week to check out their primate facilities, kindly hosted by Andrew Winterborn. I was writing a grant on rhesus monkey welfare, and wanted a sense of how common stereotypic and depression-like behaviours are in their system (which is quite British in its use of tall, large cages full of enrichments).  I and a team of collaborators (first amongst which is UCD’s Brenda McCowan) want to work with monkeys in the small cages typical of US primate centers (at least when animals are ‘on project’), and where such responses are rather prevalent.

I was dreading the visit, to be honest: the last lab rhesus monkeys I had anything to do with were bald, aggressive and scared, so I was expecting this to be like a trip to Bedlam. But instead, the animals were calm, curious and had pretty luxuriant coats, and they seemed to be on a good regime of relevant, appealing enrichments. Depression-like responses basically don’t occur, so I realized we mustn’t play that up in our grant  if we want to generalize from the US to other systems. And to my surprise, I found the animals very endearing, which meant my heart became engaged with this grant, not just my head. A very good visit.

Ego-boosting email of the week

24 01 2016

From the organizers of the ZSL MSc in Wild Animal Biology (which I do love teaching at, but simply can’t when I’m teaching here as well, and so I’m pulling out…):

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New email of the week

20 01 2016

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From Andrea, who just submitted a terrific sole-authored review on self-harm to AJP.

Email of the week

20 01 2016

From a New York Times reporter, after I (apologetically) sent him a graph to help explain something:

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This NEVER happens

20 01 2016

From BBR!  And a first for me!        Screenshot 2016-01-20 09.53.44

Congratulations to Carole, on getting very nice data showing that for mice, stereotypic behaviour and depression-like inactivity are alternate responses to barren housing.

Seeing with your brain

20 01 2016

Gregoy Bedecarrats gave a talk in our department last week, on the possible effect of coloured lights on hen reproduction (I’m now changing all the bulbs in our house to red ones to ward off the menopause …).

His most amazing slide was in the introduction, on the three organs that have photoreceptors. Yes, THREE. In birds, it turns out, the hypothalamus — despite being deep within the brain — is studded with photoreceptors. I nearly fell off my chair!


Gay teacher

9 01 2016


Farewell to Walter

9 01 2016

His finalized thesis safely uploaded into the Atrium, Walter now has to pack up his life here and move back to Spain on Sunday.  We said goodbye to him at the Green Room tonight.

Bad photo below of the end of the evening:.


Us, just about still alive and sane: