Boredom-like states in mink – again!

28 10 2017

Me and Becky’s boredom replicate study, achieved (a while ago now) thanks to Dana and some of her data from her last experiment here. is now out, along with a nice freebie link good ’til Dec. 15th:

Screenshot 2017-10-27 21.24.00

To help you access and share this work, we have created a Share Link – a personalized URL providing 50 days’ free access to your article. Anyone clicking on this link before December 15, 2017 will be taken directly to the final version of your article on ScienceDirect. No sign up, registration or fees are required – they can simply click and read.
Your personalized Share Link:

And I should mention this great review paper on boredom too, published by Charlotte Burn a couple of months ago:

Screenshot 2017-10-27 21.28.17

New Text of the Week

28 10 2017

From Maria today, after a loooong day for her and Andy (newly arrived in the UK, just hours ahead of cat Luna) yesterday:img_5703.pngAfter 8 hours on a plane on Wednesday night (this after being driven from Lansing to Chicago ), poor Luna was then held up at Heathrow for another 8 hours (grim for Andy as well, since he too had been on an overnight flight). Maria also reports that this shrivelled her own telomeres to little stubs.

Luna was then taken to a brand new house in which initially only the very highest cupboards were deemed OK:


But it sounds like today she’s settling in. And crucially, now all three are reunited at last!

Resignation syndrome

27 10 2017

Just listened to a fascinating and horrible radio show about refugee children who just shut down and cease responding (but, and here’s the weird thing, mainly in Sweden).

There’s a good magazine article on the topic here, and a recent peer-reviewed review article looks interesting too.

Which is Text of the Week?

26 10 2017

It’s a tough call: Emma showing what a great student she is AND how cute our mixed strain trios are? Or me asking a mink farmer about his balls? (I can explain though: he’s ordered a container-load of 50,000 table tennis and wiffle balls as mink enrichments, which is now en route from Asia).Slide1



My new office

25 10 2017


The hens – who are a delight – featured in a quiz question for ANSC*4090 too the other week.

The first day they could go outside (once their new enclosure, and the tunnel connecting it to their coop, were finished), it was a struggle to get them inside for the night. I called from the coop, and banged a food dish full of treats, but they just had no idea what I was doing or what I meant: they kept running to and fro along the tunnel, and it took me and Jonathan nearly an hour to get them all corralled indoors. But the next evening, I again called from the coop and banged the food dish, and they all immediately came sprinting in, ready for supper. The next evening I just started calling from the coop (“chick-…”), and that was all they needed to trigger the mass sprint home. The fourth night, I went to the coop to call them — and they were all there already, lined up and looking expectant!

This is the most rapid associative learning I’ve ever seen (the quiz question just being about which type). My dad thinks they should be put in charge of Brexit.


25 10 2017

I am five conferences behind, blog-wise, but will start with the latest and hope that has me then working backwards to May.

Last week, me, Andrea, Miranda and new student Sam rented a ridiculous giant black SUV and drove to Chicago and back for Brookfield’s 3rd International Symposium on Zoo Animal Welfare.  There we met up with “Big Emma” (her and Miranda were presenting complementary posters), and Maria, and Ros, who’d all come over from the UK.

It was just lovely to see everyone (and the Monday night, we all snuck out together for fabulous tapas). Ros being there was particularly special, as her work some 15 years ago was the starting point for what Miranda and Emma are doing now.  Those three meeting up was a really nice complement to Emma and Miranda meeting Jeanette last year (and now I just have to get Ros and Jeanette to meet!).

My talk went OK (though the conference opened with an announcement that all talks had to be shortened by 3 minutes … which I missed because I was literally about to go on stage and so having a nervous wee; my presentation’s timing was therefore like being in a bad dream). The strange panel discussion I was on (with Jill Mellen and Joy Mench) went OK too; Andrea’s talk went well; and, that aside, the highlights (cast into stark relief by truly spectacular pseudoreplication in the worst talks) were from Austin Leeds on assessing salivary oxytocin in gorillas, Ashley Edes on trying to validate allostatic load indices in the same species, and a multi-zoo study from Jilian Fazio on the exquisite Fishing Cat (which benefits from more human contact apparently; can I volunteer?)

Below, top to bottom, the “Carnivore Three” (Emma, Miranda and Ros); the closest we got to downtown (whizzing by as we drove from the wrong zoo, oops, to Brookfield); Miranda and Emma at their poster; Jill, me and Joy being a “panel”, and Emma and Miranda’s great (Ok so I’m biased) posters.



Screenshot 2017-10-24 21.51.05

Chicago poster_1

Chicago poster_M_E GJM_EM - 2


The Curse of the Play Paper: fading … but not yet over

25 10 2017

Today, Jamie at last submitted what we hope are final revisions to our ‘play as a welfare indicator’ paper!

Screenshot 2017-10-24 20.37.11

This was definitely a case where the referees’ comments, which chimed with our own misgivings about our original submission, helped us make the paper way better. So, we’re cautiously optimistic.

But it wasn’t laziness had us first submitting something we weren’t wild about: this MS has been more dogged by disaster than any paper I’ve ever worked on, and with a “special edition” deadline to meet (Mollie Bloomsmith and Terry Maple were putting together a volume on ‘optimal welfare’), we couldn’t just wait ’til all was well.  First I had terrible tendinitis, and was awash with inflammatory molecules that made me low and slow-witted; then Julia hurt her wrist, while Jamie broke his finger; and then Julia also cut a finger badly with a kitchen knife (see below, with added hurty faces).

Then when it came to revising the MS once we’d heard back from the journal, poor Julia now had serious concussion from a bicycle accident (you can tell she’s kind of the weakest link here, though it’s her sections on human children that most make this paper original).

Finally, now pretty much the last authors to get their acts together, we were ready to submit!  But this time it was the Elsevier site that was broken and out-of-action. After two days of technical trouble, it grudgingly let Jamie submit, but still Mollie can’t actually see the MS: for some reason it’s now invisible.  Before she does eventually get her hands on it, I really think I should warn her to be careful…

Audience effects on dog facial expressions

23 10 2017

Just as for smiling in humans, alarm calling in chickens and many other signals, having an audience (here, a human rather than a member of their own species) potentiates facial expressions in dogs. This has been revealed in a new paper in Scientific Reports  (nicely covered by the Guardian here).

I’d love to now know if dogs produce different expressions for humans than they do for other dogs, and whether associative learning plays a role (since I’m convinced — not least as cats are so good at tailoring what they do to what pushes our buttons — that Sylvie makes cute faces when she notices me looking at her, which I then totally reinforce with cuddles).  Thanks to Jamie for passing this on!

Screenshot 2017-10-22 21.54.04

New papers submitted

16 10 2017

In last week’s flurry of activity, Andrea submitted a paper to Animal Behaviour. We aimed higher than normal with this MS as it’s on three inter-connected studies that nicely show that different stereotypic behaviours have different triggers and are best treated in different ways, even within the same individual. Fingers crossed they send it out to review!

Screenshot 2017-10-16 19.32.46

And Emma (that’s ‘Little Emma’) and Aimee sent a paper off to Lab Animal, validating live observation as a data collection for mice. These results were a major relief as the video-watching this required, even though of just 8 cages, nearly killed them.

Screenshot 2017-10-16 19.33.23

Welfare benefits of preferred natural stimuli

16 10 2017

Link to me and Misha‘s new paper (which I love, though of course I’m highly biased), good for 50 days:

Or if that doesn’t work:

Screenshot 2017-10-16 15.54.46