My research is carried out as a joint activity between SRUC and the University of Edinburgh. My current collaborators include Emma Baxter and Melanie Connor (SRUC), Simone Meddle, Sarah Brown, Barry McColl and David Hume (Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh); Bob Fisher (Informatics, University of Edinburgh), Jo Williams (Clinical Psychology, University of Edinburgh), Candace Currie (University of St Andrews) and Ruth Newberry (Norwegian University of Life Sciences). Our primary focus is on understanding the biology of positive welfare using behaviour as a starting point but also using other disciplines and techniques as applicable including physiology, neurobiology, molecular biology and genetics. We are interested in the causes and consequences of ‘positive’ behaviour such as play in farm animals and for this have been studying differences between individuals and litters of pigs. We are also interested in developing video recognition of play behaviour given the difficulties in quantifying and recording the behaviour using conventional approaches. Our focus also includes characterising positive psychological states in animals using conditions such as environmental enrichment to study behaviour and brain effects of putatively pleasurable conditions. We are also working towards developing strategies to support pigs and other young animals under our care to ‘thrive’, that is to express optimal physical and behavioural development. We are also working on understanding how young people relate to animals and how to improve their behaviour and sense of responsibility to animals through school based interventions.
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