So jetlagged …

22 02 2016

… (having got back from the UK last night): forgot to take my glasses to work, so had to teach a 3-hour class wearing sunglasses (they’re prescription).

Came home to find I’d left my regular glasses on the cheese, which I’d forgotten to put in the fridge. I had, however, put the teabags in the fridge….



Tempted, very tempted

22 02 2016

Who wouldn’t want to inspire readers with the latest Foot and Ankle happenings?

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 6.04.11 PM

Laid off Myanmar elephants start putting on weight…

7 02 2016

Our 2008 Science paper is in the New York Times this week, in the context of laid-off logging elephants and the problems they seem to be facing: click here for the story. (But, I have to say, I did not say that zoo elephants definitely die early because they are fat – I just said that was a hypothesis; no-one has tested ever this. Why are journalists so allergic to uncertainty?).

Click here for a brief recycled version on the Science website too.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 6.30.43 PM

Wheel-running in the wild reveals …

7 02 2016

… well, very little really.


But responding to this 2014 paper did force Hanno and I to clarify our thoughts about what ‘stereotypic behaviours’ are, and after some struggles, we’re pleased with the results.

Click here for our paper (the ESM is under the ‘data and figures’ tab).

Congratulations to Heather!

4 02 2016

Heather‘s been looking for positions in scientific communication, and has just won a good job as a writer and scientific associate in a medical communications firm in downtown Toronto. Yay for Heather!

Fur auction

4 02 2016

Two carloads of us from Guelph went to the fur auction yesterday, and Don Boyd and Marianne Patten gave us a great behind-the-scenes tour.  It was fascinating (if sad, to me) to see some of the new automatization, with machines now scanning fur for fine colour variations instead of people with incredibly highly trained eyes. There is also now wonderful Chinese food on offer (tea-soaked eggs: mmmm…) because China now so firmly drives the market.

The below are not fine colour variations, in case you thought I was losing it, but brightly dyed mink pelts on display by a tanner: surprisingly beautiful. As ever the whole experience involved a strange mix of finding some pelts almost seductively gorgeous, but the scale of the enterprise overwhelming, especially of the wild fur. Rows and rows of lynx pelts just make me sad, and as for rugs made of bears: who could possibly want them?

Best coloured fur pic

Three days in Toronto

3 02 2016

Just had a very satisfying (if tiring) three days in Toronto.  The first two were spent in the blah subterranean ballroom of a Crowne Plaza that could have been anywhere in the world: potentially grim  … except that the meeting there was to turn the NFACC Mink Codes into a feasible on-farm audit. This is the logical next step for the Codes to have teeth, which made it very satisfying; but it was also fun thanks to the brains, work ethic and good humour of all the people — mainly mink farmers — in the room.

If this is by far my most applied work, then my third Toronto day was at the other extreme: devoted to my way more fundamental and ‘out there’ interest in developing markers of sentience (by seeing what humans can only do if they’re aware of how they feel: Walter’s thesis and beyond). I led a GTA Animal Cognition discussion group on this topic. Sarah Shettleworth did not lacerate my ideas, which was a relief, and Noam Miller had a brilliant idea: asking animals if they know what they feel (like the best metacognition experiments…).

Mixed strain housing paper published!

2 02 2016

Three strain pic 1 (Lauara H)This had a long gestation, as not being sent out to review by Nature Methods (twice: I appealed) wasted some time (stoopid Nature Methods).

But at last this terrific paper is out, led by Mike with impressive modelling from Jamie. it illustrates the enhanced power you can get from split-plot designs, and showing that in our case — where DBAs, C57 and BALBcs were co-housed together in cages that were either standard or enriched — often less than half the number of mice were needed to detect enrichment and strain*enrichment effects, compared to conventional single-strain housing. Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 9.50.14 PM

Tallulah and Bruno settle back in Spain

2 02 2016

Walter’s cats survived the long plane rides home, and here they are basking in the Spanish sun they did without for four years: Bruno (left) and the sweet Tallulah.