BioBlitz 2018 at the University of Lincoln

On Wednesday 10th October 2018, University of Lincoln students and A Level students from two local schools were given the opportunity to become a wildlife explorer for the day.

During their exploration into the various types of wildlife at the University’s Brayford Campus and guided by the School of Life Sciences’ scientists, students took part in pond-dipping, invertebrate sampling, bat echolocation, small mammal identification and plant and fungi identification.

This year’s BioBlitz also coincided with Biology Week – a celebration of biology involving activities held nationally and coordinated by the Royal Society of Biology.

The School of Life Sciences staff were supported by volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. The University’s Environmental Manager, Rebecca Forster, also gave an overview of the environmental and sustainability initiatives that the University of Lincoln has put in place to ‘green’ the campus.

As is the case with any research activity, everything found on campus was documented and passed on to local and national databases that monitor our local wildlife.

Find out more about the School of Life Sciences: http://lincoln.ac.uk/home/lifesciences/  or follow the School on Facebook and Twitter.

Student Trip to South Africa Enhances Conservation and Ecology Skills

As part of their studies at the University of Lincoln, students from the School of Life Sciences visited Mankwe wildlife reserve in South Africa in June 2018.

During their stay, the group of staff and students were able to explore the stunning South African landscape whilst carrying out scientific research on the health, behaviour, welfare, conservation and ecology of the wildlife in this biodiversity hotspot.

In the beautiful and fragile ecosystem of Mankwe, students and staff worked alongside a group of  local community-level conservationists. Throughout their trip, students learnt and developed field and identification skills as well as finding out about reserve management and anti-poaching strategies.  In addition, they were able to apply skills and knowledge gained during their degree programme to develop a self-driven research project on an aspect of animal health, behaviour and/or ecology.

Mankwe is a 4750 hectare reserve in the North West Province of South Africa, approximately 5km east of Pilanesberg National Park. The accommodation is a selection of safari tents, wooden cabins and a clinker brick chalet at the Waterbuck camp, where students have the opportunity to experience a true bush adventure. There are no fences so students live among the wildlife.

To find out more information about the School of Life Sciences Overseas Field Trips, click here.

Visiting Researchers to share findings on Animal Cognition and Welfare

On Thursday 19th July 2018, the Clinical Animal Behaviour Doctoral Research Group at the School of Life Sciences will be hosting three visiting researchers, Dr. Naomi Harvey, Dr. Leanne Proops and Dr. Jennifer Wathan in a series of talks about their latest exciting research work in the area of animal cognition and welfare.

All University of Lincoln staff and students are welcome to attend, however, please send your RSVP to Luciana Assis (lassis@lincoln.ac.uk) to register interest and to pass on any dietary requirements.

The talks will take place in the Joseph Banks Laboratories in JBL3C01 and will commence from 1pm until 5pm.

More information about the speakers and their talks below.

Dr. Naomi Harvey, University of Nottingham: “From itchy dogs to depressed (?) dogs and the pitfalls of cognitive bias testing in shelters”

The focus of this talk will be my most recent work across two projects: the latest findings from my current post-doctoral position evaluating behavioural differences in dogs with and without skin allergies; and the results of a collaboration with Dr Carole Fureix looking at shelter dog behaviour and cognition. Using data gathered from the C-BARQ, comparisons between dogs with skin allergies and healthy skinned controls revealed that dogs with itchy skin from allergies displayed more stress behaviour, comfort-seeking behaviour and grooming behaviour, and were less trainable than their non-itchy counterparts. The results of this behavioural analysis are the first of their kind exploring the impact of skin allergies from the perspective of the dog itself by evaluating the behavioural changes it causes. The fact that many of the stress and attention-seeking behaviour exhibited by itchy dogs are considered to be ‘problem’ or ‘nuisance’ behaviour by owners could contribute to a break-down in the dog-owner relationship and an increased risk of relinquishment for dogs with skin allergies. Inactivity in captive animals can be reflective of many different things and is still poorly understood. Together with Dr Carole Fureix, we have been investigating the prevalence of a specific form of inactivity in shelter dogs; being awake (with eyes open) but motionless in the home pen. Dr Fureix has shown that this form of inactivity correlates with anhedonia in riding horses and laboratory mice, and thus could be in indicator of a ‘depression’ like state. We aimed to test whether time spent in this state also correlated to anhedonia and cognitive bias in a population of shelter dogs. I will discuss our progress on this project to date, including the practicalities and unforeseen issues of working with shelter dogs.

Dr. Jennifer Wathan, Global Animal Welfare of Brook: “Research in Practice”

Handling describes how humans work with, respond to, and interact with animals within their surroundings. Brooke sees humane handling of animals as critical to their welfare. Suffering as a result of poor handling can occur daily and over time can cause cumulative mental and physical damage to an animal, whereas good handling and positive human-animal interactions contributes to positive welfare. Brooke champions positive human-animal interactions; humane and respectful handling of animals has no cost and can be done anywhere in the world, yet can have a considerable impact on animal welfare. Here we outline a project to collate what we know and consider how best to use that knowledge to expand the reach of this important work.

Dr. Leanne Proops, University of Portsmouth: “Why the Long Face? Affective Cognition in Horses”

The ability to recognise and respond appropriately to the emotional signals of others has clear adaptive advantages. Recognition of such signals allows an individual to predict the positive or negative consequences of social interactions, thus facilitating social cohesion and avoiding potentially costly conflict. In humans, emotional intelligence is believed to play a key role in social behaviour and has important effects on social competency. Darwin was the first to recognise parallels between emotional signalling in humans and other species that suggest it would be adaptive for animals to also respond in functionally relevant ways to emotional cues. However, it has been recently that researchers have turned their focus to affective cognition in animals. Here I will present the work we have been conducting that assesses emotional awareness in the domestic horse. For horses, conspecifics and humans represent significant social partners. Our research shows that horses are highly sensitive to the emotional signals of both species, using face, body and vocal cues successfully to inform current and subsequent social decisions. The ability of horses to discriminate between human and horse emotions raises interesting questions regarding the evolution of emotion signalling across species and the relative importance of lifetime experience.

Refreshments and snacks will be provided after the talks and guests will also have the opportunity to chat with speakers on a one-to-one basis.

Early Career Researchers Celebration Event at the University of Lincoln

The School of Life Sciences is hosting a University-wide event to celebrate Early Career Researchers (ECR) and their contribution to research at the University of Lincoln as part of ECR week.

The event will feature the inaugural Research101 competition, open to all ECRs (particularly ‘postdocs’) from all Colleges, on Monday 18th June from 4 pm, on the ground floor of JBL (meadow / breakout area, weather dependant). Present your research in 101 seconds with the aid of one slide or prop, or nothing at all, for a chance to win a £101 cash prize!

All ECRs, staff and students are invited to come along to provide support and mingle over food and drink with live music from a local band.

For further details please contact Graziella Iossa: giossa@lincoln.ac.uk – or book your free space online.

Dr Giles Yeo to deliver talk at School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln

Dr Giles Yeo, from the University of Cambridge, Horizon and the BBC’s “Trust me I’m a Doctor” will be providing an informed and entertaining seminar titled “The genetics of obesity: Can an old dog teach us new tricks?” on Friday 4th May 1-2 pm, in the School of Life Sciences seminar series at the Joseph Banks Laboratories (JBL3C01).

Dr Yeo is a geneticist with nearly 20 years’ experience studying obesity and the brain control of food intake. He obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge in genetics in 1998 (studying the genetics of the fugu fish) and has been there ever since. He was in the initial vanguard that described a number of genes that when mutated, resulted in rare forms of severe obesity, thus uncovering key pathways in the brain that control food intake.

Dr Giles Yeo
Dr Giles Yeo

His current research focuses on understanding how these pathways differ between lean and obese people, and the influence of genes in our feeding behaviour. Giles also presents science documentaries for the BBC. His critically acclaimed investigative piece ‘Clean eating – The dirty truth’, for BBC Horizon, was screened in January 2017 and prompted an important national debate about dieting advice and evidence-based science. More recently he featured weekly on BBC2’s ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor’ as one of the new ‘doctors’.

For more details contact Professor Jon Whitehead (jwhitehead@lincoln.ac.uk). (Please note, this talk is open to staff and students only).