Cat owners invited to take part in our School’s research

Researchers at the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, are inviting cat owners to take part in groundbreaking research. 

Due to the enigmatic nature of this species, detecting pain in cats reliably is inherently challenging, limiting our capacity to be able to quickly and efficiently treat cats in need.

The Understanding Cat Pain Project is working to better understand and improve on our ability to detect some of the subtle signs of pain expression in cats.

The project, involving the School of Life Sciences’ Dr Lauren Finka and Prof Daniel Mills, aims to collect data on people’s ability to identify whether a cat is in pain or not, based on their facial expression.

If you would like to participate, please complete the following training task and quiz online.

 

Life Sciences Undergraduate Showcase

From Life Sciences to Chemistry and Engineering, the University of Lincoln’s College of Science hosts another remarkable showcase of our undergraduate students.

Good luck to everyone on getting back their marks over the next few days.

Here is a little look into a few of our students we spoke to over the two days.

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Zoology student Alexandra Briggs looked at the affect of visitor numbers on the seals at popular viewing site, Donna Nook.

Alex said: “We’ve found that a lot of factors are affecting the seals at Donna Nook and it’s confirming what a lot of people were thinking. The advice to to Donna Nook would be that more and more people are going to come it might be best to put in changes now.

“If the changes work, they can be put in place at other beaches where visitor numbers are a big issue, as some sites have no limitations between us and the seal. People will go up to the seals and pet them, and they run away and leave their pups and they then starve to death, so it can be a huge issue in some places.

“I didn’t just want my research to just be inside, I wanted to be out in the field and doing something I wanted to do.”

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Bioveterinary Science student,Charlotte Carr took up some great work experience at Gatwick Airport with the security dogs. With this interest in mind, she took on the research of looking at dog behaviour levels in the home compared to in a kennel facility.

“Dogs when they were at home and in kennels to see if there’s a difference with their activity, I also compared this to behaviour scores which their owners gave them on their impulsivity, behaviour regulation, aggression and responsiveness.

“I found that as the dog gets older, they get more activity and their impulsivity increases. I also found that females were more impulsive than males and the activity in the kennels increased depending on the breed type, and the impulsivity as well.

“The toy and utility breed type were the most active and the non-working was the least active. The older the dog, the more active. It was strange. We think it was because they’d spent so much time with their owners that they didn’t mind being on their own or in the kennels.”

Charlotte’s findings will help to make improvements on the kennel facilities within Gatwick Airport.

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Jorge Sobral studied the effect of photoperiods on the genitalia of the bruchid beetle.

“I grew them in different light regimes – no light, 12 hours with light and 12 hours in darkness, and I’ve found that photoperiods do affect the size and shape of the genital organs of the beetle.

“I found that beetles grown in half darkness and half-light seem to have the longest parameres, which are in the genitals, for their size. This implies that genetalia may not be a viable way to classify species, so my work kind of contradicts that and says that it might be best to back up with something else too.”

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Looking at a future in wildlife conservation, Chardè Anderson looked at tissue samples of Bottlenose Dolphin species and the possibility of hybrid species.

She said: ‘The university received some tissue samples of Bottlenose Dolphins, and we were looking to see if they belonged to the bottlenose or a hybrid with another species.

“Through a lot of studies, we found there to be a possible one hybrid out of the 24 samples between two different species. Although there did look to be other individuals in the samples to be the same species, but from different regions.”

An amazing array of projects were on show across Life Sciences and we are proud of every one of you. Take a look at our photo album of the two days on Facebook here:

PhD in Dog Cognition and Behaviour – Apply Now

See below for an amazing opportunity for a PhD placement in Dog Cognition and Behaviour.

 

Are you interested in carrying out a PhD at our lab (http://www.dogup.it/), in the field of Dog Cognition and Behaviour. 

The University of Padua (Italy) is offering PhD research fellowships dedicated to non-italian candidates. As of now, there are 15 PhD grants available, for PhD courses commencing on October 1st 2016 and ending September 30th 2019. 

Each position will be covered by a fellowship of 13.640 Euro per year (gross value), plus full board and lodging for the three year course. Full details of the call are available here: http://www.unipd.it/en/node/1053

The deadline for the application is April 22nd 2016.

 Our research group (DogUP Lab, run by Prof. Lieta Marinelli and Dr. Paolo Mongillo) is one of the destinations that applicants can choose.

Our current main research topics are: 1) the characterisation of the dog as a model for human conditions characterised by cognitive/behavioural changes, such as senile cognitive decline and ADHD; 2) a deeper understanding on cognitive and behavioural effects of gonadectomy in family dogs; 3) improving the management of dogs in real-life situations as well as in a range of typical canine working activities. More information about our lab can be found at http://www.dogup.it/

We encourage interested applicants to contact Dr. Paolo Mongillo (paolo.mongillo@unipd.it) as soon as they can, to discuss details about a potential PhD project and for any further information they need.

New research shows that Collies can border on the impulsive

bordercollieBorder Collies are on average more impulsive than Labrador Retrievers, according to new research published today (Thursday 10th March 2016).

When comparing working lines – groups within a breed that have been selected to perform a particular task for humans, such as herding sheep – Collies were found to be on average more impulsive than Labradors.

However the research, published in leading academic journal Scientific Reports, also found that there was no significant difference in levels of impulsivity between show lines of the two breeds. Show lines are bred from animals which take part in dog shows and competitions, for example.

The study was undertaken by a group of researchers in the areas of animal behaviour and evolutionary genetics at the University of Lincoln. Data on 1,161 pure bred Border Collies and Labrador Retrievers using the Dog Impulsivity Assessment Scale (DIAS) – a dog owner reported questionnaire composed of 18 questions – was collected to analyse their temperaments.

Fernanda Fadel, an author on the study from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, explained: “Impulsivity can be described as the inability to delay reward gratification, and in dogs this may sometimes relate to problems such as aggressive behaviour. Historically, Border Collies and Labrador Retrievers have been selected for working purposes requiring different levels of impulse control – livestock herding and gundog work respectively.

“Of course, it would be inappropriate to make predictions about an individual dog’s behaviour only based on its breed, but our findings are extremely interesting. They highlight the varying temperaments of different breeds and also point to the impact that breeding for work or breeding for show can have on the personalities of our pets. We also saw a large variation among individuals of the same breed.”

While the researchers found that working Collies were more impulsive than working Labradors, show lines of the two breeds did not significantly differ in terms of impulsivity. They therefore conclude that when appearance rather than behaviour becomes the primary focus for breeders (as in show lines), this may relax selection on behavioural traits and reduce average differences in impulsivity between breeds.

Further studies will now take place to explore these differences and determine whether similar findings are also true for other breeds.

The paper, entitled ‘Differences in Trait Impulsivity Indicate Diversification of Dog Breeds into Working and Show Lines’, is available to read in full online: http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/srep22162

Dogs really can recognise human emotions

 

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As a dog owner you’ve seen them smile, cuddle you when you’re not at your best, mope when you’re not around and pounce around when you’re in the best of moods, but now it’s been scientifically proven: dogs really can recognise emotions in humans.

By combining information from different senses – an ability that has never previously been observed outside of  humans, a new study published from the University of Lincoln reveals.

For the first time, researchers have shown that dogs must form abstract mental representations of positive and negative emotional states, and are not simply displaying learned behaviours when responding to the expressions of people and other dogs.

The findings from a team of animal behaviour experts and psychologists the University of Lincoln, UK, and University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, are published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

The researchers presented 17 domestic dogs with pairings of images and sounds conveying different combinations of positive (happy or playful) and negative (angry or aggressive)  emotional expressions in humans and dogs. These distinct sources of sensory input – photos of facial expressions and audio clips of vocalisations (voices or barks) from unfamiliar  subjects – were played simultaneously to the animals, without any prior training.

The team found the dogs spent significantly longer looking at the facial expressions which matched the emotional state (or valence) of the vocalisation, for both human and canine subjects.

The integration of different types of sensory information in this way indicates that dogs  have mental representations of positive and negative emotional states of others.

Researcher Dr Kun Guo, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, said: “Previous studies have indicated that dogs can differentiate between human emotions from cues such as facial expressions, but this is not the same as emotional recognition.

“Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs.  To do so requires a system of internal categorisation of emotional states. This cognitive ability has until now only been evidenced in primates and the capacity to do this across species only seen in humans.”

Co-author Professor Daniel Mills, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “It has been a long-standing debate whether dogs can recognise human emotions. Many dog owners report anecdotally that their pets seem highly sensitive to the moods of human family members.

“However, there is an important difference between associative behaviour, such as learning to respond appropriately  to an angry voice, and recognising a range of very different cues that go together to indicate emotional  arousal in another. Our findings are the first to show that dogs truly recognise emotions in humans and other dogs.

“Importantly, the dogs in our trials received no prior training or period of familiarisation with the subjects in the images or audio. This suggests that dogs’ ability to combine emotional cues may be intrinsic. As a highly social species, such a tool would have been advantageous and the detection of emotion in humans  may even have been selected for over generations of domestication by us.”

 

Study animal behaviour further with the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln