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.
What happens when your scientific study results contradict all previous research in that area?
Science can be surprising, and for Dr Lisa Collins, researcher in Animal Health and Welfare Epidemiology at the University of Lincoln, UK, that’s part of the challenge – and the fun!
Lisa’s research focuses on the development and application of mathematical and statistical methods for the study of animal health and welfare in a wide range of species.
She has recently led three research projects to investigate the welfare of kennelled dogs.
This includes a 3-year study conducted in dog rehoming centres, where the aim was to develop a tool to assess Quality of Life based on a wide range of novel and traditional welfare indicators.
Lisa has been awarded a number of prizes for her work, including the 2014 British Science Association Charles Darwin award for excellence in science communication, and the 2010 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare’s Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year award.
In this episode, we speak with Lisa about her work comparing the welfare physiology and behaviour of pets dogs at home and in a boarding kennel environment, with some unexpected findings.
Sandra McCune holds a PhD that examined the temperament and welfare of caged cats as well as qualifications in vet nursing and zoology. She knows the answer to why cats like boxes, and the science behind it.
In her current role as the Scientific Leader for Human-Animal Interaction at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, she manages a large portfolio of collaborative research projects.
These projects cover many aspects of human-animal interaction, in countries including US, UK, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Australia.
In addition to having written research papers and book chapters on several aspects of cat behaviour, cognition, welfare and nutrition, Sandra has lectured and advised many animal shelters, ethologists, animal welfarists, and groups of vets and vet nurses.
Sandra is sought out as a voice within industry and regularly speaks at international conferences on pet ownership issues and the bond between people and pets.
Today we’re talking to Sandra about pet cats, their incomplete domestication, our attachment to them and the behavioural links between wild big cats, and the cat in your home.
Kurt Kotrschal, Jon Day, Sandra McCune and Manuela Wedl (2013) Human and cat personalities: building the bond from both sides. Chapter 9 In: Dennis Turner and Pat Bateson (Editors) The domestic Cat: The biology of its behaviour. CUP, Cambridge
Bennett, P.C. (2010). People, pets and positive psychology (transcribed from Radio Australia). Second Australian Positive Psychology and Well-Being Conference, February 12-13, Caulfield, Victoria, Australia.
Stephen Jenkinson is the United Kingdom’s only specialist in behavioural psychology and its practical application to influence the behaviour of walkers with dogs.
Stephen holds a Master of Science (MSc) and post-graduate Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling.
In 2013, the United Nations Development Program contacted International Fund for Animal Welfare for help in managing the issue of roaming dogs in Bosnia as a serious community safety issue.
Dog advocates had been attempting to control packs of street dogs through limited catch-sterilize-and-return programs or placing dogs into newly constructed shelters, but the programs were not working and people did not feel safe.
Bosnia needed a different approach – and that’s where Steve became involved…