And congratulations to Sam

16 01 2019

… who endured cold, mud and more to collect tonnes of data from 272 mink exposed to different enrichment regimes. He wrapped up data collection in November, collated and checked the data in December, and now has to analyse them, all the while keeping his fingers crossed there’s something there.

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ISAE photos

16 01 2019

Just stumbled across two photos from the ISAE and realised I should just quickly post them since I am never going to do a proper write up! In a small nutshell, my talk went well, so did everyone else‘s, and here are Emma (bottom) and Aimee (top) rocking it. My favourite presentation, aside from the Japanese onesJan Langbein, on goats who seek human help when they get stuck operating their puzzle feeders.



Congratulations to Misha!

6 01 2019

This is LONG overdue: Misha defended his PhD thesis in November!  I may be dragging my heels writing this up just because I’ve worked with him for so many years off and on (we’ve known each other at least a decade), that I can’t quite believe the end is coming up (though I did finagle 3 months of post-doc money for him, so we’re not quite there yet!).

The defence had a slightly surreal start: first, Jonathan turning up in a suit scared the bejesus out of Misha, and then the video connection wasn’t working so Marian Dawkins, our fantastic external examiner, was there only as a disembodied voice blaring out at full volume from an invisible speaker.


But then Misha relaxed into it and all went well. Marian had the infuriatingly astute questions I was braced for (querying whether enriched hens were really resilient to acute stress or just showing blunted physiological responses for some reason: ugh, why didn’t we have acute rewards as control events?!). But that’s just why we wanted her.

Here are the rest of us at the end, all lined up neatly in height order: Misha, Trevor de Vries (chair), Alexandra (committee member), Steph Torrey, the ‘internal external’, and me:


luke is mutinous

That evening we celebrated with a lovely meal out (Miijidaa again). I was a bit late because Luke (right) wouldn’t let me wrap Misha’s present (a mini nail gun called a ‘palm nailer’ and a Home Depot gift token), but it was a great evening, and a pleasure meeting his astonishingly beautiful mother for the first time. Sam and Lindsey couldn’t make it but all the rest of the group can just about be seen below, plus Misha’s mum top left and wife Gwen to his left in the bottom pic. And to read his terrific thesis, click here!





There’s always one

4 01 2019

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– from Becky’s great Twitterfeed.

What Becky got for Christmas

4 01 2019


Looks beautiful (though I hope it wasn’t all she got!)

Seeing out 2018

1 01 2019

This was our last lab meeting of 2018, held in Miijidaa (our new favourite place). As well as catching up and enjoying the pressure being off for a while, we said goodbye (or at least au revoir) to Aileen and Basma, who finished their coursework MSc degrees in December; we welcomed back Emma, who’s missed us since her defence; and we discussed this interesting piece on numbers as rhetoric, finding the author somewhat guilty of exaggeration: it was the press who misreported WWF’s figures, not WWF itself). It was a really fun meeting.

Right to left round the table: Misha (several weeks post defence now: more on that later!), Basma, Aimee, Emma, Aileen, Sam, Andrea, Michelle and Lindsey.


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.

Screenshot 2018-12-27 18.20.25