What evolutionary and developmental processes are involved in creating physical variation?
Is selection responsible for moulding the diversity of life?
Or does developmental bias via drive and constraint determine how animal shapes change?
Abby Drake is interested in the processes that produce macroevolution and dictate which physical appearances, evolve and which do not.
She is especially interested in learning how species evolve: What mechanisms produce enough physical or behavioural change to ensure reproductive isolation on the population level?
To this end, she studies developmental processes that lead to large modifications of morphology, using variation in vertebrate skulls to answer these questions.
Abby uses three-dimensional scan data to capture each specimen’s 3D geometry.
This type of data allows her team to look at the shape of the skull holistically using a sophisticated shape analysis called geometric morphometrics.
While she also works on cetaceans, owls and primates, this episode focuses on her extensive work examining canids: when did wolves become dogs, how have we shaped them, and where might they go in the future?
“Do goats have emotions?” is something rarely searched for on Google, but if you think about it, it’s a very good question.
The answer is yes, goats do have emotions.
Believe it or not, they also have social networks, puzzle solving skills, and impressive long term memories?
We’re not even kidding! Alan McElligott is based at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the Queen Mary University of London, where he and his team research cattle, fallow deer, and goats.
In this episode, we talk about their recent work, and how it contributes to improved understanding of animal behaviour and behavioural ecology, raising important considerations for animal husbandry and welfare of goats in companion animal, livestock and pest contexts.
When someone turns a fun hobby into a game changing tool for good, it’s inspirational!
That’s exactly what Lian Pin Koh has achieved in bringing affordable drone technology to aid conservation scientists.
A tropical ecologist by training, Associate Professor Lian Pin Koh received his PhD from Princeton University, where he studied the environmental and policy implications of oil-palm development in Southeast Asia.
He then spent several years researching key scientific and policy issues concerning tropical deforestation and its impacts on carbon emissions and biodiversity while based in Zurich.
Lian Pin currently leads the Applied Ecology & Conservation group at The University of Adelaide in South Australia, where they ultimately seek to do good for society.
In this episode, we speak with Lian Pin and learn about his exciting work using drones in conservation.
Imagine deciphering the first form of intentional communication to be recorded in the animal kingdom, such as how chimpanzees communicate.
That’s exactly what Dr. Catherine Hobaiter has done after years of following wild chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest of Uganda, Africa.
She studies the evolution, acquisition and flexibility of communication and social behaviour, in particular through long-term field studies of wild chimpanzees.
For the past seven years, Cat has been working as a primatologist at a forest research-station in Uganda to better understand chimpanzee communication and behavior.
She hopes to to advance our understanding of great ape communication, and in addition, by looking at areas of overlap or species specific traits, she hopes to also gain an understanding of the evolutionary origins of language.
In this episode, we learn from Cat about her exciting observations of a communication system where animals don’t just share information through behaviour, but deliberately send messages of meaning to each other.
Listen in, and you’ll find out exactly how how chimpanzees communicate.
Are jockeys using whips to steer and stay safe, or are they simply whipping tired horses?
These are questions that prompted Professor Paul McGreevy of the University of Sydney to research the use of whips in horse racing.
Paul is recognised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as a specialist in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine.
His research focuses on the behaviour and welfare of horses and dogs, and he is the author of six books and over 120 peer-reviewed articles on animal behaviour.
Paul’s award-winning research examining the use of whips in horse racing aims to further our awareness of the experience of horses, extending to a recent experiment capturing the thermographic effects of his own leg being hit with a padded whip.
As the Spring horse racing carnival hits its peak in Melbourne, Australia this week, we asked Paul to discuss his findings and what it means for horses, beyond the glamour and excitement of race day.
Here’s a fact: bees are responsible for the successful production of around a third of the food you eat.
As one of our oldest domesticated animals, bees and people share an amazing history.
But the future is uncertain, with devastating global declines in both feral and managed populations.
Boris Baer and Barbara Baer-Imhoof, in conjunction with their colleagues at the Centre for Integrative Bee Research at the University of Western Australia, are researching many aspects of honey bees, in the field and in the lab.
In our first episode featuring an invertebrate species, we learn more about our relationship with bees, what would happen if they vanish and ways we can help them thrive.
Video – More Than Honey Trailer
Stuerup, M., Baer-Imhoof, B., Nash, D. R., Boomsma, J. J. & Baer, B. When every sperm counts: factors affecting male fertility in the honeybee Apis mellifera, . Behav. Ecol. 24(5): 1192-1198. View online at Behavioral Ecology.
Most of us know that playing with dogs and horses can be fun, but have you ever considered how important animal-assisted play might be in psychological therapy for people?
Dr. Risë VanFleet is the Founder of the Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center in the United States, an organisation specialising in the training and supervision of child, family, and play therapy professionals, as well as the provision of mental health services for children and families.
She is a psychologist and author of several books, who focuses on strengthening family relationships through play, and has specialties in chronic medical illness, disaster mental health, child and family trauma and attachment interventions using play therapy, filial therapy, and the training and involvement of animals in assisted play therapy.
It’s this area of using animals, particularly dogs and horses, in play as a mode of therapy for people that we learn about with Risë in this episode.