We have a “hot paper”!

10 06 2019

Nice find from Andrea, who’s busy collecting a second batch of monkey data, this time in Portland: our play paper‘s finally doing well!

hot paper

Email of the week

11 05 2019

From Big Emma, as she look to see if husbandry variables covary with any aspect of natural foraging in our Carnivora database (and we’re very much hoping not…)

Re: Moving forward with the paper!

Mason Lab runs the April 24th ‘Behaviour Group’

9 05 2019

Behind as ever (still failing to write up ABS from 2017!), but 2-3 weeks ago, in the very last week of the semester (the profs and their groups take it in turns, rotating alphabetically by surname), it was my lab’s time to handle “Behaviour Group” .  It was a bit of a scramble as we didn’t quite decide what to do ’til a few days before, I was still trying to get all my marking in by the deadline (c. 35 lit reviews – see the Festive Door of Freedom below, plus 20 blogs and 20 ‘Three Minutes theses’), and it was touch and go whether I’d accidentally turn up on the day still wearing my slippers and nightguard.

But the topic we chose — the CCAC’s draft Animal Assessment Guidelines — was interesting enough that we could create a lot of stimulating material, and it triggered so much discussion that we didn’t even get through all our plans. The questions we pulled out were: is it simply sensible to equate welfare with feelings, or might this alienate those still cleaving to the ‘Three Circles’? (me); if welfare indicators should have construct validity, then how exactly should we validate them? (Aimee); if lab animals should have positive affect, what are the potential indicators of this, and how do we know? (Misha); and if we need indicators of ‘cumulative welfare’ to track a lifetime’s experience, then, again, where do these come from and how can we ensure they’re valid? (Andrea).  Sam, Lindsey and Michelle acted as wingmen, candy-buyers and sounding boards as we prepped, and everyone did a bloody fantastic job. (And thanks to wangling a little extension, I even managed to write our comments up for the CCAC and send them in today!)



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


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

How does poverty cause violence?

11 03 2019

I’ve been doing a bit of idle lit searching into the reasons why poverty causes violence. I was hoping to get new ideas as to why impoverished animals (e.g. female mice) are so often more aggressive than animals kept in better conditions. Not getting very far though, as I’m not sure mice have aspirations, and they certainly don’t have access to drugs.

Triple congratulations to Michelle!

8 03 2019

Michelle’s been appointed ‘science writer’ for the NFACC Scientists’ Committee about to tackle fish welfare issues in aquaculture. And making her week even better, research technician Jacquie Matsumoto (shown below training Michelle last summer) has just added plastic plants and glass pebbles to all of Glen van de Kraak‘s zebra fish tanks, inspired by the data Michelle spent all of last fall generating!

Michelle used a series of simple but elegantly conducted preference tests (the bottom picture shows a “grass versus gravel” set up). She found that several resources are preferred by these tiny fish over the standard barren default (though they were utterly unmoved by her colourful wall photos, despite her cry of “But I laminated them!!!”).  The data even reveal a lovely graded ranking of preference, from least preferred to most (standard bare tank < plants < gravel < two plants + gravel < four plants + gravel), so that labs wanting to enrich their fish can pick anything from the basic additions to deluxe overhaul. And Jacquie’s clearly going for deluxe! (Very nice work Michelle).



Grass vs Gravel