Need to borrow one of Jonathan’s T-shirts…

19 01 2018

… as I have a lecture to give tomorrow (on the amygdala and anxiety, ironically) and it is not finished! Aiyee! But interesting new work from UBC suggests a way I can help myself calm down: Screenshot 2018-01-18 21.41.02



Ninja cats

19 01 2018

Stunning photos from Japan (of course): and

Screenshot 2018-01-18 21.24.43



12 01 2018

I can’t quite decide how this compares with being cited by Your Brain on Porn, but Maria and I were denounced (yes, DENOUNCED!) by Marc Bekoff is this inflammatory piece just before Christmas.

Screenshot 2018-01-11 21.53.35

Marc writes, “Welfarism puts human needs first, and tries to accommodate animals within the “human needs first” framework. Well-being [in contrast] broadens the question of “what do animals want and need” beyond the welfare box, and tries to understand animal preferences from the animals’ point of view. For example, welfarism asks whether mink on a fur farm would prefer taller or shorter cages; well-being challenges the idea mink should be in battery cages on a fur farm in the first place.”

That is literally our work! And my response? Yes I ‘get’ the misgivings, but if you don’t do such research and mink farming keeps going, then you’re leaving animals in worse cages than they need to live in. Is that really the right thing to do??

Plus ironically, in many ways Marc’s a fan of welfare research.  When he writes about elephants dying prematurely in zoos, that work was led by an animal welfare scientist (me!); when he argues that 40% of zoo elephants show stereotypic behavior, who collected and analysed those data?  And who were the researchers he was so pleased found evidence of empathy in chickens, and signs of boredom in caged mink? Yep, all welfare scientists.  So it is pretty useful, our work, isn’t it? Not just disgusting apologism!  (I had a great email exchange with him about this actually, and all’s good).

Birds using fire as a tool?

10 01 2018

Reports have built up over millennia, in the oral history of aboriginal people and more recently too, that Australian birds of prey exploit the way that bush fires flush out prey, by deliberately spreading it!

These incredible accounts have now been collated and analysed in the Journal of Ethnobiology  Here is a write up in National Geographic, and here’s a video by New Scientist.


2018: an even better year for women?

8 01 2018

This week begins with Carrie Gracie resigning from the BBC, and (nearly all) women wearing black at the Golden Globes.   2017 was a big year for women’s issues with the phenomenal ‘Me Too‘ campaign (and the sillier, but hey why not? ‘womanspreading’ one), along with giant strides for women in Saudi Arabia.

For me it’s easier now I’m older (and in a field that’s now firmly female-dominated), but a regular feature of my PhD and post-doc days was navigating around unwanted passes: nothing frightening ever, but still, I would have to make sure I was wearing a large boob-hiding sweater if I needed to talk to the Cambridge Zoology dept.’s male departmental administrator, and the number of senior colleagues I’d meet to talk about research with and then having to end up dodging unwanted kisses from was just ridiculous (and then you can’t ask them about work any more, which is just annoying; social embarassment definitely contributes to the glass ceiling!). So, from my admittedly safe and privileged vantage point, I’ve been loving all this.

Fishing with otters in Bangladesh

6 01 2018

Very sweet item on the BBC World Service the other week about fishermen who train otters to fish for them: (at about 35 mins in). Reminds me a bit of people who hunt with mink (though rather more crucial to their livelihood).


Some day this will be me

18 11 2017

Screenshot 2017-11-17 19.06.19