University of Bristol PhD Studentship: Animal emotion and welfare: a decision-making and computational approach

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The project:

An animal’s welfare depends on its emotional state (states elicited by rewarding and punishing events). Long-term ‘moods’ are particularly important determinants of animal welfare and may play a key role in guiding decision-making by biasing an individual’s expectations of decision outcomes, especially in ambiguous situations. Using a ‘judgement bias’ (JB) assay of decision-making under ambiguity that we have developed, many studies show that, like humans, animals in positive affective states behave as if anticipating positive outcomes under ambiguity, and vice versa for those in negative states.

However, there are also null and opposite results which may occur because affective states have a variety of different influences on decision-making. This project aims to disentangle these effects and hence to clarify findings in the literature, establish any constraints on using JB as an indicator of animal affect, and advance theory on the relationship between affect and decision-making. Computational modeling of data from operant studies of laboratory rodent decision-making will identify underlying parameters (e.g. prior experience of, and sensitivity to, reward and punishment) that influence decisions. There will also be opportunity to carry out parallel human studies to establish cross-species similarities and differences, and to develop theoretical computational models to investigate predictions, for example that experience of environmental conditions generates adaptive decision-making profiles.

The student will receive training in animal learning and behaviour, perceptual and affective psychology, and computational theory and modelling. They will learn to design decision-making tasks, to programme and use operant equipment, to implement computational, statistical, and trial-by-trial analysis of datasets, and to build theoretical computational models. Such skills will be invaluable within the increasingly mathematical context of modern biology.

Supervisors: Prof Mike Mendl, Prof Iain Gilchrist, Dr John Fennell, Dr Liz Paul (Bristol University)

Collaborator: Prof Peter Dayan (Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany)

Faculty Fellowship – University of Newcastle

Are you an outstanding early post-doctoral scientist aspiring to develop into an independent research investigator?

Apply for our exciting 2-3 year Faculty Fellowships at the University of Newcastle for early career scientists.  We provide salary and consumables funding together with mentoring and career support to help you develop external fellowship applications.

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PhD studentship in animal welfare: Refining weaning age in macaques destined for neuroscience research

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Value of award

100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £15,119. Significant additional funding to cover research costs, visits to Newcastle and local, national and international travel (e.g. conferences).

Start date and duration

September 2019 for a three-year PhD.


Newcastle University and the Centre for Macaques (CFM) are looking for a PhD student for an NC3Rs funded project studying the impacts of different weaning ages in laboratory primates (rhesus and cynomologus macaques). You will use a comprehensive range of behavioural and health measures to assess the impact of weaning at different ages on the immediate welfare of macaques at CFM and their likely future welfare in neuroscience laboratories. These will include measures of temperament, general health and immune function.

You will be based at CFM near Salisbury in Wiltshire for the duration of the PhD with regular visits to Newcastle for training.


National Centre for the Replacement Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs)

Name of supervisor(s)

Professor Melissa Bateson, Institute of Neuroscience and Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Dr Claire Witham, Institute of Neuroscience and MRC Centre for Macaques, Salisbury, UK

Eligibility Criteria

You must have at least a 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant field (e.g. psychology, biology, biomedical sciences, veterinary sciences). Previous research experience is required and a masters degree is desirable. Proficiency in oral and written English is mandatory.

The candidate should be willing to work with laboratory primates and to be based at Salisbury in Wiltshire. Due to the location of the Centre for Macaques the student will be required to get government security clearance to work on site.

The award is available to UK/EU applicants only.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system by creating an account. To do this please select ‘How to Apply’ and choose the ‘Apply now’ button.

All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk must to be completed. The following information will help us to process your application. You will need to:

  • click on programme of study
  • insert Programme code 8430F* in the programme code section and click search
  • select Programme name ‘PhD in the Faculty of Medical Sciences (full time) – Neuroscience’
  • insert IN108 in the studentship/partnership reference field
  • attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code IN108 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
  • attach degree transcripts* and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualification.

*You will not be able to submit your application until you have submitted your degree transcript/s.


For further information, please contact:

Claire Witham (
Melissa Bateson (

RSPCA Head of Clinical Behaviour Position

The RSPCA has an exciting opportunity for a qualified and experienced person to develop and lead their behaviour team, to ensure they are meeting the needs of the animals in their care.

Responsibilities to include:

  • Developing and delivering an effective and integrated behaviour and welfare strategy, ensuring processes and procedures are up to date and evidence based
  • Recruiting and managing a team of Regional Clinical Animal Behaviourists
  • Working alongside the Field Operations team to embed processes and protocols in Animal Centres and other establishments
  • Providing advice and support to RSPCA staff on behavioural rehabilitation and welfare
  • Carrying out assessments of more complex cases and developing appropriate plans for their management
  • Developing and delivering training to a range of RSPCA staff and volunteers
  • Leading on initiatives and activities which relate to dog behaviour and welfare

Skills and experience include:

  • Postgraduate qualification in companion animal behaviour and welfare or other relevant subject
  • ABTC Clinical Animal Behaviourist
  • Extensive experience of working in the field of dog behaviour rehabilitation and welfare
  • Treatment of dogs with a range of problem behaviours
  • Experience of working within a team of animal care workers and professionals
  • Line management experience and experience of working in teams

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