Our new mice

26 04 2017

The first half of our new mice arrived last week, with the second batch due today. It took ages to source them as we wanted pups from our three strains to be from independent families, i.e. no littermates. But finally (thanks to Brianna), we found that Charles River’s Ralaigh facility could do this. We’re using three strains to give us enhanced statistical power, and to also facilitate individual identification in the cage.  But an added bonus is that they look so damn cute together (pictured right, a little scared from the long journey and the strange place). Half of them are to grow up in regular shoeboxes, half in the 60×60 x 30 cm very large enriched cages last used by Sara-Lee Tilly.


Michigan weekend

26 04 2017

I spent Friday-Monday in East Lansing last week, and it was ridiculously pleasant: partly the familiarity of seeing people I’ve worked with for 11 years now, but also meeting IMG_4591someone new – Sam, who turns out to be extremely nice. Plus Maria and I analysed data every day, and were happy as kids in a sandpit (tackling Dana’s dataset properly at last, and — even better —  finding we’d successfully replicated our previous result that enriched males are better at winning matings from females).

On top of that I met the lovely if strange Luna (Maria and Andy’s rescue cat), and saw Maria’s new experiment (she’s sneaking in one last project before she leaves, on a new grant won with Jens Malmkvist). Here is a female in the lucky treatment group to be given nesting materials: one who’s skillfully made a neat shelter for the kits she expects in about a week (something not all the females do, some of them seeming really quite nonplussed).

Mink mum with nest

And I just wanted to do biology when I grew up …

26 04 2017

The oh-so-practical reality of running a group was top of my agenda today. It’s often more like running a small business than anything else (Does everyone have the right insurance? How’s the budget for that project doing? Can we meet that deadline or should we give up? Is everyone happy and productive?), and nothing like the classic image of us scientists as cerebral, absent-minded figures with large foreheads and white labcoats.

Today’s strange job: carefully following some online instructions to dismantle our four startle boxes, as they’ve been making terrible noises and need to be couriered to the manufactuer for re-soldering.


Very sweet thank-yous

26 04 2017

Cute home-made cards from the ANSC*4700 students we took on this semester:  Shining, who worked with Andrea and me on a lit review on stereotypic behaviours in rhesus monkeys, and Alison Wong, who worked with Maria and ‘Little Emma’ (I did nothing and did not deserve a card, let alone the cookies that came with) to review the potential effects of stress on aggression in rats. Both did really outstanding jobs.


Quotes of the week

25 04 2017

“I guess JMP is good for beginners”:

Andrea, who has become quite la-di-dah since learning Stata.

“We would just always sniff the socks”

— new animal care technician Michelle, on how to tell if mice have peed in their hammocks.

SONA here we come

25 04 2017

After a day of about 100 emails and texts with Maria today as she analysed the mink brain data as fast as she could, we got an abstract in to SONA with 6 minutes to spare!

The story seems to be that no one single basal ganglial region explains stereotypic behaviour in mink, but the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens do in concert (revealed by running stepwise regressions).

And talking of talented …

24 04 2017

… many congratulations too to Emma (Mellor, now called ‘Big Emma’ to distinguish her fro20170423_144539m ‘Little Emma‘) who just successfully completed her third (third!!) London Marathon!

Here she is with brother-in-law Joe, with whom she ran it: “it was great to just be chilled, chat and enjoy it”, she said. Incredible! (Especially as personally I just spent literally the whole day making excuses not to do a pathetic 20 minute jog, *blush*)