Congratulations to Lindsey!

27 12 2018

Lindsey submitted her first ever first-authored paper last week! This is always an achievement, but in this case it was also a major relief: the MS was starting to drive us both insane, as we tried again and again to retrofit a sensible, research-based rationale onto a rather intuitive undergraduate project. This rationale morphed from a (baroque) method to assess individual recognition (an idea ditched a while ago), to, more reasonably, a novel test of Social Learning Strategy theory.  Highlights of this challenging and circuitous journey included Lindsey presenting to the GTA Animal Cognition Reading Group in November, and her teaching herself stats amazingly competently; but lowlights included realising that at least two aspects of the experiment were (potential referees please stop reading now) totally stupid. Lindsey showed outstanding resilience and perseverance throughout this process, even when she had a “heart full of hate” (quote of the week that week). So, double congratulations to her: I hope she’s spending the Christmas break doing nothing but nice things.

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Mike Mendl’s visit

9 11 2018

Last week Mike came to stay for a few days, on the way back from Baltimore where he’d given the Charles River lecture at AALAS (and here he is, below, about to get his Red Car back to the airport). Mike

While in Guelph, he gave the talk again for Central Animal Facility staff, we worked on a piece we’re writing on how to validate indicators of animal affect, and we had a good time catching up.

We also made a major decision: to finally give up on the book, and turn the three things we’ve written for it into papers. It’s taken us 12 years to get this far; and if I look unflinchingly at my future sabbaticals, and realistically assess how much serious writing time I have between them (none), we wouldn’t be finished for another … 18 years! My refusal to admit this ’til now has honestly been a bit like someone determinedly trying to get a duvet to fit into a match box (it WILL fit, it WILL, it WILL). But now our work should at least see the light of day in 2019.



Our Zoo Biology paper is “Editor’s Choice”!

4 11 2018

After a long and rather painful gestation, me and Big Emma‘s paper on phylogenetic comparative methods was picked as the Zoo Biology Editor’s Choice (thank-you Jason!)! We’re both thrilled, and it also means it’s freely available to non-subscribers for 3 months:


Papers papers papers

25 10 2018

At last, the “cursed” play paper is properly out, after a YEAR in press! Here is free access for 50 days:

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(And if you don’t have time to read it, the answer’s “no”).

This week Maria also heroically submitted our mink brain paper, pulling a near all-nighter (something of an annual habit this time of year), to make sure collaborator Craig could get a submission no. for his CCV before his NSERC DG deadline.

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‘Cat faces’: third time lucky?

2 10 2018

Got this horrible email a couple of weeks ago:

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So that was out lovely cat faces paper just sitting in limbo for two months; and this after it had previously been turned away by Scientific Reports too, for not being about biology (since more about people than cats).

It hurts: I love this paper (and know it’ll get a tonne of media attention).  So, we licked our wounds, laboriously reformatted everything, and resubmitted to Animal Welfare a few days ago.  Journal No. 3, please be lucky for us….

Congratulations to Emmas!

28 07 2018

‘Little Emma’ (Emma Nip) had her paper on chickadee body masses accepted at last – something she submitted at about the time she joined the lab, only to discover that The Canadian Field Naturalist is the world’s slowest journal. Congratulations to her on her first paper, and her persistence and patience!

Meanwhile me and ‘Big Emma’ (Emma Mellor) also finally had our Zoo Biology paper accepted, again after more than a year. Obviously this is great news, but the message below had us in something of a panic…

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… because the fine details of phylogenetic comparative methods are not especially easy, and in all honesty this paper was never actually refereed by an expert.  So, we were now rushing to get input and a critical eye cast on the most technical sections.  Hafiz Maharali (who was on Miranda’s committee) and Innes Cuthill (who’s on Emma’s) were both great – speedy, helpful and to the point. We also spotted a possible error in “A Primer on Phylogenetic Least Squares“, which we’d cited handsomely, and scurried to edit the manuscript around that too so that we didn’t parrot it and then make one of our own figures look wrong.  In the end we had to ask the Zoo Biology production folks to pull our proofs and let us submit as fairly overhauled new Word doc.  I’ve never done anything remotely like this before, but they were very good about it. So, a big thank-you to Vinoth in New Delhi, and a big sigh of relief from us.

Ready to film!

10 06 2018

Here are 16 cameras, meticulously set up by the fabulous Aileen, and cobbled together from a handful I had already, five borrowed from Lee, and 8 bought for Andrea’s primate project.

We’re replicating a small study Emma and Aimee did at the very start of their programmes, to see if the presence of people watching mice alters their behaviour. This is an essential step for validating live scoring, and yet no-one had ever done it before (not least as it’s super dull, labour-intensive work). Our last attempt got rejected for being under-powered (reasonably enough, I have to admit), so this is us getting ready to wade back in and do it all again.