Judgment bias in men

24 09 2018

Fascinating data from Carole, who charitably described them as “the perfect example to teach students about chi square and significance. Imagine you have two groups of people, men and women, answering a question ‘do you perceive any barrier to equality in your department?’“. Only they’re not imaginary numbers, they’re real….


MDMA and octopuses

24 09 2018

Screenshot 2018-09-23 21.28.22This really got a lot of attention this week: give Ecstasy to an octopus and it becomes all “touchy feely”. It sounded as dumb as the “we get our lobsters stoned before boiling them” story that came out of Maine around the same time. But chasing up the original paper, I found it was in Current Biology and that the work was thorough, from genotyping and finding evidence for an MDMA receptor, to using several animals in social preference tests with and without the drug. The authors admit they weren’t blind, and OK, all the animals were siblings (so the data strictly say more about this one family than the whole species). But it’s still interesting evidence of homology despite all the many differences between them and mammals. Would they self-select MDMA? That seems the obvious next experiment.

Hmm, not replying to this one …

17 09 2018

Screenshot 2018-09-17 09.06.41

Mouse adoptions and other endings

4 09 2018

We came to the end of a whole series of experiments in August, our mice now 18 months old.

We killed about half of them for their organs (including brains to test hypotheses about stereotypic behaviour and depression, and hearts to investigate why non-enriched DBAs die so young, our suspicion being cardiac hypertrophy from excessive stereotyping). Killing research animals always makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life. But I’ve learned that physiological data impress people far more than “mere” behaviour, and we really want our research to have an impact. Neuroscience students from UTM and Elena’s lab led the way, to ensure this was done as effectively as possible (I don’t want to mess things up this time). All the mice got treats on their last day too, despite this ruling out some assays we might have done later (due to their little nuclei accumbens lighting up from the sugar rush …).

Next, the non-enriched remaining mice got moved to enriched cages for the first time in their lives, Aimee carefully collecting data on how quickly their behaviour changed (as we suspect anhedonic animals may find enrichments less rewarding). And now, at last, everyone was ready to be adopted out!  Aimee made posters (below), everyone made a ‘mouse care guide’ (led by Lindsey), and we all composed an email to send out right, left and centre.



And here are the first to leave the lab, adopted by Steph Torrey’s student Zhenzhen.


Sleeping cat with fallen cherry blossom

2 08 2018

One of the slides from Hajime Tanida‘s lovely ISAE conference talk today, on providing drinking water to the feral cats of Onomichi: 


The audience forgot they were serious applied ethologists, and cooed and ooed at each and every lovely photo.

Squandering fish

28 07 2018

16850_350x276_72_DPI_0Last year, work from UBC published in Fish and Fisheries showed that around 10% of caught fish are just thrown back in the sea, dead.  Now, about 12 months later, there’s more grim news on wasted fish: it seems that actually around one third of caught fish is wasted, according to a report from the FAO (written up by The Guardian here, and by a fisheries information website here). 

On top of the 20% of meat and dairy that goes to waste, this means a staggering amount of animal suffering has absolutely no point. If animal harvesting and farming were humane, respectful and efficient, with everyone applying the 3Rs at every stage of the process, I might be OK with it. But the way we humans operate really is pretty indefensible.

Adopting out our mice

24 07 2018

Today we started spreading the word about new homes being needed for our soon-to-retire mice. I’m worried it’ll be tricky finding homes for all of them. But then, who can resist these pics? (With thanks to Emma).