Who am I and what do we do in this lab?

I am Georgia Mason, a British behavioural biologist (now older-looking than this photo!) who moved from Oxford to Canada in 2004 to take up a Canada Research Chair in Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph (http://www.uoguelph.ca/). I and my (fabulous) group are interested in how animals adapt (or otherwise) to barren, unstimulating captive housing conditions. In other words, if animals are healthy, well-provisioned and protected from physical harm, is that all that they need for good welfare? Or do they still need to be able to perform activities like social interaction, foraging, or ranging? These simple questions, at the heart of everything we do, in turn raise other fascinating issues to explore. For a start, how can we tell: how can we say anything objective about how animals feel, without slithering into anthropomorphism? Are other species even sentient at all: maybe they are just little robots without feelings? And when we do find evidence that animals find barren cages stressful or aversive, and more complex ‘enriched’ housing better for welfare, is that because they are motivated to perform certain specific natural behaviour patterns? Or because they have more general needs, like avoiding ‘boredom’ or having control? Whatever they are, how and why might such needs evolve, and how are they modified by early experience, or by cues in the animal’s environment? At the more ‘applied’ end of our work, can we design simple, cheap, robust enrichments that will improve animal welfare in practical situations like working mink farms or commercial laboratory rodent breeding facilities? And finally, do the welfare benefits of enriched environments help explain the well-known neurological benefits of enriched environments: does being happy make you smart….?

For our publications, see: http://georgiamason.wordpress.com/
and for citation metrics see: http://scholar.google.ca/citations?hl=en&user=WcMxAP8AAAAJ

If you’d like to join the lab, check out:
http://jointhemasonlab.wordpress.com/

My own group is one of several working at the UoG on related issues. All of us interact a lot, and meet up at least once a week. For more on the other welfare faculty in Guelph, and their research, see: http://www.uoguelph.ca/abw/

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