One degree of separation from Jane Goodall

15 04 2019

My amazing friend Sarah got to meet Jane Goodall on Friday, thanks to a friend of hers who’d worked at one of the chimp sanctuaries; so while some of us finished our supper before the lecture (which turned out to be strangely in support of OVC Pet Trust rather than anything conservation-related), Sarah got to hang out with this icon. (P.S. Incidentally, apparently the whole ‘six degrees of separation’ idea — that that’s what separates us from everyone — may be a myth).




Birthday group meeting rolls round again!

15 04 2019


I swear these are recurring faster and faster… Thanks to my lovely, lovely group for a fun lunch and (AGAIN!) inspired presents (this time The Hidden Life of Trees, and Allowed to Grow Old [no not about me, about elderly farm animals living in sanctuaries]). Left to right are Andrea (finally back from California!), Misha, Michelle, Lindsey, Aimee, Emma (not a student any more, but she can’t keep away), me and Sam. Then we went back to the department for an hour of “speciesism“: a thought provoking discussion, just for us, skillfully led by Melisa Choubak from UoG’s Centre for Cross Cultural Research


Becca Frank’s visit

10 04 2019

Dr. Becca Franks came to give the last CSAW seminar of the semester a couple of weeks ago (the series which started with Megan LaFollette, and later included Cass Tucker and Charlotte Winder). It was a really fun visit. First off we drove into the countrybecca_franksside to meet Rich Moccia at the Alma Aquaculture Station; then, with just enough time for her to warm up, she gave her seminar: a unusual combination of scholarly insights into the welfare importance of positive affect, and compelling videos of fish doing what really does seem to be play.

In the evening my lab took her out to Baker Street for a drink (Gwen and Misha bringing their baby, making this Oakland’s first pub outing), followed by vegan food at Cadence. The next day Michelle and Matt Cornish showed her round Hagen Aqualab; and then we met for a quick coffee, and it was back to New York for Becca! I hoping her and Michelle get more time together in Norway for the ISAE.

Cats recognise their own names…

6 04 2019

… showed Japanese researchers today, in a clever experiment utilising habituation-dishabituation.

What they made less of is the way most cats do not respond at all: the (comedy) graphs below shows tail flicks, ear twitches etc. made while cats hear 5 nouns, the 5th of which is their name. They’re impressively indifferent! Cats’ abilities were only revealed when the researchers analysed the sub-set of animals who showed habituation over the first four nouns (i.e. who progressively ignoring the stimuli): these cats measurably perked up when the last stimulus was their name. So I wonder why only some cats habituated?

Screenshot 2019-04-05 21.44.34

Purple-nosed cats

4 04 2019

Luke I’ve borrowed an infra-red camera from work to get a feel for it (have some ideas I want to pursue on mice this summer), while also sneakily taking some pictures of our house‘s ever-challenging roof.

The camera’s slow, it clicks when it calibrates, and it crashes if you cluelessly ask it to do too much too fast. But it’s also phenomenal (as it should be for $12 grand!): I can see that with a bit of patience and skill it could be really valuable. Misha‘s already used it to look at acute stress responses in chickens (enriched hens seem more resilient: see his excellent “Hens with Benefits” thesis here!). So now can we use it to assess social buffering in mice? That’s the hope!

The ‘getting a feel’ has mainly involved taking cat pictures (of course) and both Luke and Sylvie turn out to have amazingly cold noses. Now I’m all side-tracked wondering if thermal imaging could also help people better read cat faces

More strange dreams

24 03 2019

Andrea’s through the monkey dream phase that (inevitably) marked her first couple of weeks in Davis.  Now it’s my turn, this time with a strange dream about Little Emma. Guess I really want her to come back!


‘Ello to Arlo!

11 03 2019

Welcome to Arlo James Ahloy Dallaire, looking feisty below, and many congratulations to Jamie and Liana! Arlo arrived a bit early, but is doing just fine.