Birds of prey make my day

26 02 2020

I had a great visit to Wild Ontario last week, to see how this raptor rescue facility could be used in teaching.  The sheer shock of joy I got from seeing these birds up close surprised me! Here’s an American kestrel, calmly waiting for his next snack. (Apparently all the birds are too well fed to be/show “yarak”)


Email of the week

26 02 2020

Screenshot 2020-02-26 09.04.22

From Jamie. Yep, me him and Becky are designing our summer experiment again.

Possibly my research career’s very peak

23 02 2020

OK this really has to be the highlight: cat faces was mentioned, albeit it very very briefly, on the Bill Maher show last week! (Don’t ask me why I can’t get this horizontal: I simply can’t. Just turn your head – go on you can do it!)

Toronto Zoo visit

23 02 2020

The day after my CCSAW directorship interview, I found myself waking up in a hotel in Ajax, all ready for my next talk: how to use corticosteroids to assess welfare, presented as part of Toronto Zoo’s “Lunch and Learn” series for their staff.

After a slight screw up with me going to the wrong entrance (turns out I was too tired to follow simple directions, and, oops, the zoo really is huge…), this went well, and there were lots of great questions from keepers. After that, I had a very pleasant afternoon with enrichment coordinator Hollie Ross and keeper Gerri Mintha, looking at their black footed ferret facility. All nestboxes are videoed, which means the first thing you see is a screen full of snoozing mustelids, occasionally squirming, stretching or rolling over. They should sell this as a sleep aid: it’s very relaxing. (And the close up at the bottom is Sloan, a beautiful little female taking a break from determinedly trying to get treats from under an upturned bucket). Future student Prathipa is interested in studying these animals’ maternal care, but as I learned today, it turns out this all seems pretty straightforward and unproblematic so we may have to re-think. (Mating though, well, that’s a whole other story, just as it is for European mink…).

Last week I connected again with Maria Franke and Kevin Kerr, this time to present at a course they coordinate and teach on with UTScarborough’s Rae Sturge.  I’m spending a LOT of time on Go trains, but these new links with the zoo are making me really happy.

Curled up BFFFerret

Zebra fish chamber of love

23 02 2020

Waiting for Michelle now she’s back: Jaqui’s mate choice set up, all good to go. We want to find out if female zebra fish find enriched males more attractive than standard-raised males, inferred partly from who they hang out near, but also from who they release more eggs for (the sector at the top with the plants and gravel is the spawning zone, carefully designed so eggs can be collected and counted).

Z fish chamber of love

Guest post: The Hawaiian Zebrafish Adventure

23 02 2020

Michelle makes up for it with a great update here:

Entrance to the conference centre

Entrance to the conference centre


Back in September, Aquaneering (a company that makes zebrafish housing units) sponsored a contest to find two new speakers for the Zebrafish Husbandry Association’s annual workshop, held this year in Honolulu. On a whim, I entered (without telling Georgia – oops), not once expecting to actually win the $1000 prize for a trip to Hawaii. But I did, and I went!!

It wasn’t like any conference I’d attended before – the workshop is mainly a meeting for zebrafish technicians and aquatic veterinarians from big facilities in North America and the UK (but this year, some Australians came as well). The academics who did attend were immunologists, pathologists, and parasitologists who taught me a lot about how to monitor and maintain the health of my zebrafish.

The first day of talks was really useful on facilities management, biosecurity, and husbandry  – I’m taking a lot of lessons back to the Aqualab. But after I gave my talk (beginning with a three-minute rapid-fire overview of what welfare is; i.e. not just health!), the meeting became much more. Suddenly I was being peppered with questions and interesting tidbits from technicians who have a lot of ideas about what kinds of welfare problems zebrafish might encounter day-to-day in the lab and care deeply about their ability to mitigate possible animal suffering. The meeting was a great opportunity to get a feel for what would be practically useful to study in the future, and a TON of stuff got chucked into my ever-growing “ideas” folder.

I’m looking forward to periodically returning to the workshop, since it was both inspiring and incredibly validating to have people working on the ground with the fish be so excited about welfare science and its possible applications. Plus we had a pretty good time – Aquaneering sponsored a cruise down the coast of Waikiki, and Tecniplast (their direct competitors!) held a mai-tai party at the Royal Hawaiian – a giant pink hotel right on Waikiki Beach. Then of course, I went on holiday and drank all beverages exclusively out of pineapples or coconuts, slathered SPF 60 everywhere, and snorkeled with as many aquatic creatures as I could (respectfully, of course)…

Nauseating excuse of the week

16 02 2020

From Michelle, who’s just been presenting in a zebrafish workshop at a conference in Honolulu:

Screenshot 2020-02-16 12.52.13
We’re happy for you Michelle, honestly! (Teeth grinding very very slightly…)


Behavioural effects of mouse tears

15 02 2020

Hmm, it seems that murine tears are useful after all!

Screenshot 2020-02-14 21.38.26


“Ellis was stillborn at 10pm and I was in work at eight o’clock the next day.”

15 02 2020

The UK has just introduced a new law (“Jacks’ Law“): any working parent whose child dies is now entitled to two weeks leave. For a stressor whose lasting effects on bereaved parents can include depression, poor health, and even shortened lifespans, this doesn’t seem like much. But it’s a major, major advance on the pitiful nothing there was before.





My big week

15 02 2020

I’m moving department! — transferring to Integrative Biology, which I think will be like going back home. Very grateful to Ryan Gregory for being so welcoming; and to my current and future deans, and even more so Provost Charlotte Yates, for figuring out how to make it work. “Geoxit” happens May 1st, but I’ll teach my current courses for OAC for a couple more years ’til they can replace me with some fabulous youngster. Exciting times!