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.

Garden Seed Influences Young Turtle Doves’ Survival Chances

Young turtle doves raised on a diet of seeds from non-cultivated arable plants are more likely to survive after fledging than those relying on food provided in people’s gardens, new research into Britain’s fastest declining bird species has shown.

Ecologists at the University of Lincoln, UK, investigated the dietary habits of adult and nestling European turtle doves – an IUCN Red List Threatened Species – breeding in the UK, using DNA analysis of faecal samples. They found significant associations between the body condition and the diet of the bird.

Nestling turtle doves still being fed by their parents were found to thrive on seeds foraged from non-cultivated arable plants such as scarlet pimpernel and chickweed, but the birds were in poorer condition when their diet was high in seeds provided by humans in back gardens or public spaces. In contrast, adult body condition was better when more cultivated seeds such as wheat, oil seed rape and barley were present in the diet.

Data collected for the study, which was carried out in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the University of Sheffield and Cardiff University, was compared with the results of previous studies carried out in the 1960s and 1990s. It revealed a fundamental shift in the diet of turtle doves, showing that the birds are now relying more heavily on food found in gardens, such as sunflower and niger seeds, than they did 50 years ago.

As the UK’s fastest declining bird species, the results of the study have important implications for conservation strategies to save the turtle dove. Previous research has shown that nestling birds with better body condition are more likely to survive after fledging and strategies should be developed to provide the correct diet for the bird at each stage of its life.

Dr Jenny Dunn, Lecturer in Animal Health and Disease in the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, led the research while based at the RSPB. She said: “Turtle doves are the UK’s fastest declining bird, with a loss of 98% of breeding birds since 1970. Researchers are trying to tackle the problem by identifying ways to provide food resources for the species while they are breeding in the UK, but for this to be effective we need to understand the birds’ food sources and the impact they have on both adults and their young.

“The results of this study suggest that conservation strategies should include provision of anthropogenic seeds for adults early in the breeding season, coupled with habitat rich in accessible seeds from arable plants once chicks have hatched.”

To understand the diet of the birds, researchers caught turtle doves on breeding grounds at 11 sites across East Anglia, and extracted DNA from the faecal samples which enabled them to identify the diet of each bird. Their body condition was also examined, and nest sites monitored.

Further research is now needed to link the findings of the study to the use of habitats provided for turtle doves through agri-environment schemes.

The study was part-funded by the RSPB, Natural England and the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility at the University of Sheffield.

The full paper, ‘The decline of the turtle dove: dietary associations with body condition with other columbids analysed using high throughput sequencing’ has been published in the journal Molecular Ecology and can be viewed online at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mec.14766

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.

PANDORA Project to Strengthen Emerging Infectious Disease Preparedness in Africa

Dr Matthew Bates, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, attended a kick-off meeting in Rome in June 2018 for his PANDORA project . The project (Pan-African Network for Rapid Research, Response and Preparedness for Infectious Diseases Epidemics) brings together a consortium of 21 partner institutions in Africa and Europe, including Dr Bates’ research organisation in Zambia, where he worked for seven years before joining the University of Lincoln.

Funded by the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), this €10m project will engage in a range of activities designed to enhance preparedness to respond to infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola.

The project will support training workshops for first responders in all four African regions, equipping them with the skills to safely and effectively provide clinical care and diagnostic services to patients with suspected outbreak infections. Two new mobile laboratories will be established in Zambia and the Republic of Congo and surveillance studies will be undertaken in both humans and animals.

The PANDORA consortium.
The PANDORA consortium.

There will also be opportunities for African scientists to develop their research skills, the creation of online education tools and resources, and the development of ethical guidelines for research in outbreak settings. In the U.K the project is led by University College London, and also involves the Royal Veterinary College, partnering with research institutions in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Tanzania and Zambia.

The project will run for four years and there are possible opportunities for University of Lincoln students, particularly those studying the MSc Microbiology programme interested in human or animal infectious diseases, to undertake field work projects in Zambia, supported by the grant.

Any interested parties should please contact Dr Bates at mbates@lincoln.ac.uk / Tel: 01522 835 228.

Astrobiology Paper Explores the Link Between Terrestrial Extinctions and the Milky Way

A new paper exploring the link between terrestrial extinctions and the Milky Way galaxy has been published by Dr Michael Gillman (School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln), Dr Hilary Erenler (University of Northampton) and Dr Phil Sutton (School of Mathematics & Physics, University of Lincoln).

The paper, Mapping the location of terrestrial impacts and extinctions onto the spiral arm structure of the Milky Way, was published in the International Journal of Astrobiology and looks at data from asteroid impacts, as well as other significant historic changes in the climate of Earth, and the location of the Solar System in the Milkyway galaxy. It was found that asteroid impacts, relating to mass extinction events on Earth, were clustered around the passages through the higher density regions of the spiral arms.

Abstract

High-density regions within the spiral arms are expected to have profound effects on passing stars. Understanding of the potential effects on the Earth and our Solar System is dependent on a robust model of arm passage dynamics. Using a novel combination of data, we derive a model of the timings of the Solar System through the spiral arms and the relationship to arm tracers such as methanol masers. This reveals that asteroid/comet impacts are significantly clustered near the spiral arms and within specific locations of an average arm structure. The end-Permian and end-Cretaceous extinctions emerge as being located within a small star-formation region in two different arms. The start of the Solar System, greater than 4.5 Ga, occurs in the same region in a third arm. The model complements geo-chemical data in determining the relative importance of extra-Solar events in the diversification and extinction of life on Earth.

Image of spiral galaxy NGC 3344 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

 

Find out more about the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln.