University of Bristol and the AWRN



The Animal Welfare Research Network (AWRN) aims to bring animal welfare research and stakeholder communities together to facilitate exchange of ideas and skills, support researchers, identify and target key issues, and drive collaboration from basic science to implementation. The University of Bristol has been central to the success of the AWRN, through the involvement of their academic and support staff.

Due to his reputation in the field of animal welfare science, Mike Mendl (University of Bristol) was invited by BBSRC to apply for funding for a research network to support research in this area, resulting in the AWRN being founded in 2016. Mike worked with Poppy Statham (also University of Bristol) to design the AWRN, deciding what was needed by the animal welfare research community and how they could best be supported. Mike created a fantastic Coordinating Group of senior animal welfare researchers and agreed to take on the role of Network Lead, overseeing the development and ongoing funding of the AWRN for the next 6 years.

The Network Manager is responsible for the day to day running of the AWRN and Poppy has been in this role for the last 7 years, other than a maternity leave which was covered by Anna Trevarthen (University of Bristol). Over the years they have set up and updated the AWRN website, run 7 Annual Meetings, supported the organisation of over 20 workshops, written over 70 newsletters for members, uploaded over 130 current research articles to the website and recruited over 1,000 members. The role has evolved over the years to fit the needs of the animal welfare community, with new schemes being developed including the mentoring scheme, lab exchange scheme and monthly meet ups aimed specifically at supporting early career researchers and kick start funding to support submission of grants in animal welfare science.

The AWRN is now co-hosted by the University of Bristol and Queen’s University Belfast, with Gareth Arnott (QUB) in the role of Network Lead and Poppy Statham (University of Bristol / QUB) remaining in the role of Network Manager. The AWRN is funded until 2025 with a UKRI-BBSRC grant with GPA Award (includes funding from the Animal Welfare R&D budget held jointly across Defra, Scottish Government and Welsh Government). Mike is still a key member of the AWRN Coordinating Group as is Carole Fureix (University of Bristol)

If you want to learn more about the AWRN, there is lots of information on the website: Link to AWRN website

Main Website Back Online!

We are really pleased to announce that our main website is up and running again!

It has had a few upgrades to security (including Wordfence and Akismet), an updated Privacy Policy (which clearly you should all read), some new articles and all the old content available to you again – enjoy! 

All future updates will be posted on the relevant pages on the main website, so do take some time to explore the sections we have on there. This blog site will no longer be maintained.


Scientific Officer Position at PDSA – Telford


PDSA are seeking a Scientific Officer to join their Veterinary and Policy Campaigns team based at their Head Office in Telford.

This full time temporary role is responsible for supporting the Evidence and Policy Manager in the delivery and management of PDSA approved data and policy, impact measurements and research studies.

The candidate will need a degree in animal welfare, veterinary or a related subject and experience of undertaking thorough literature reviews and possess an aptitude for working with figures and large data sets. Attention to detail and a logical, organised work ethic along with the ability to work collaboratively across disparate teams will be key within this role.

Salary: Up to £29,442 per annum dependent on experience

Closing date: 25/04/2019

Further information can be found here.

PhD Studentship at University of Nottingham


An interdisciplinary approach to understand sheep farmers decision making for management of sheep scab.


The PhD is supervised by Dr Jasmeet Kaler and Dr Fiona Lovatt and is part of highly collaborative multi-partner project (Moredun, Bristol, Glasgow and Nottingham) which brings together the UK’s leading experts on sheep scab from across industry and academia. This multidisciplinary project aims to address the challenge of sheep scab management via further understanding epidemiology of scab, optimisation of tools for diagnosis and understanding farmer behaviour and attitudes towards scab management.

This PhD is interdisciplinary in nature and as such would suit UK or EU applicants from a wide range of backgrounds, including (but not limited to) candidates with 2.1 undergraduate degrees in Veterinary Science or Animal Science or Social Sciences or Psychology. This is a 3 year studentship with a stipend of £14,777.

Applications should be submitted by 30th April 2019.


Further information available here.


New Research Article

Does tail handling induce depression in laboratory mice?




Photo credit Julia Kuppermann

Mice are the most widely used species for scientific research. In order to improve their welfare in the laboratory, we need to better understand how routine practices and procedures affect them in order to make refinements to their housing and husbandry. Recent work led by Dr Jasmine Clarkson and Prof Candy Rowe at Newcastle University found that the current practice of picking mice up using their tails is associated with a depressive-like state, which is not evident in mice handled using a tunnel (Clarkson et al., 2018).
The team demonstrated that mice handled using their tails were less sensitive to rewarding sucrose solutions and were anhedonic compared to mice handled using a tunnel. Anhedonia is a core symptom of clinical depression in humans and can be described as the reduction or inability to experience pleasure from rewarding stimuli. Traditionally, anhedonia has been measured in laboratory rodents by looking at how much sucrose they consume. In this study, how they drank was also considered, as their licking patterns can also reveal how much they ‘like’ something. Tail handled mice drank less sucrose and did so in shorter licking bouts compared to tunnel handled mice, indicative that they found the sucrose less rewarding. This has obvious implications for improving their welfare: building on previous studies by Professor Jane Hurst and colleagues at the University of Liverpool (Hurst and West, 2010; Gouveia et al., 2013, 2017). However, it also has implications for scientific research. Mice are commonly used for a wide range of experiments where reward is often used to train the animals to perform in a given task. Therefore, making refinements to the way that mice are handled, by using a tunnel, has the potential to improve performance, shorten training times and reduce sample sizes in scientific experiments. Taken together, the work provides more support for the adoption of non-aversive handling methods such as tunnel handling for laboratory mice, in order to improve both animal welfare but also the quality of scientific data.
The work was funded by the BBSRC (BB/J014516/1) and is published in Scientific Reports (

Clarkson, J. M. et al. (2018) ‘Handling method alters the hedonic value of reward in laboratory mice’, Scientific Reports, 8(1), p. 2448. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-20716-3.
Gouveia, K. et al. (2013) ‘Reducing Mouse Anxiety during Handling: Effect of Experience with Handling Tunnels’, PLoS ONE. Edited by E. M. Mintz. Public Library of Science, 8(6), p. e66401. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066401.
Gouveia, K. et al. (2017) ‘Optimising reliability of mouse performance in behavioural testing: the major role of non-aversive handling’, Scientific Reports. Nature Publishing Group, 7, p. 44999. doi: 10.1038/srep44999.
Hurst, J. L. and West, R. S. (2010) ‘Taming anxiety in laboratory mice’, Nature, 7(10), pp. 825–826. doi: 10.1038/NMETH.1500.


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

For more information see:

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.

Please see: for more details

New Research Article

Leibnitz-Insitut für Nutztierbiologie Dummerstorf (FBN)
Foto: Thomas Häntzschel / nordlicht

Farm Animal Cognition – Linking Behavior, Welfare and Ethics

Are farm animals smart? And if yes, why should we care? In recent decades, research on the cognitive capacities of non-human animals has gained increasing attention. However, compared to the amount of research that has been conducted on some model species, studies on the cognitive capacities of farm animals are heavily underrepresented. Given the number of livestock animals worldwide, this lack of research is surprising because knowledge of the mental capacities of farm animals is highly relevant as it can affect their welfare. We need to understand how farm animals perceive their physical and social environment to appropriately assess their ability to cope with husbandry systems and to provide them with opportunities to fulfil their cognitive needs (e.g. via enrichment).

This review by AWRN-member Christian Nawroth and colleagues aims to outline the current state of farm animal cognition research, considering aspects such as categorisation, numerical ability, object permanence, tool use, individual discrimination and recognition, communication with humans and social learning.


Nawroth C, Langbein J, Coulon M, Gabor V, Oesterwind S, Benz-Schwarzburg J and von Borell E (2019) Farm Animal Cognition—Linking Behavior, Welfare and Ethics. Front. Vet. Sci. 6:24.


Workshop on “Welfare Indicators for Novel Species in Aquaculture”

Swansea University – Singleton Campus
Tuesday 14th May 2019 9am to 4pm

Meeting high welfare standards during aquaculture diversification is essential for the sustainable growth of the industry, but the culture of novel species poses particular challenges as there is typically limited information to guide best practices. Much has been learned about the welfare requirements of species like salmon, trout or tilapia, but whether this body of knowledge can also be applied to lesser-known species, novel to aquaculture is unclear.
Drawing on contributions from researchers, industry and regulators, this one-day symposium will explore the commonalities and differences in the welfare requirements of different farmed species, and will ask whether some basic welfare metrics exist. It will be followed by a workshop on the welfare requirements of lumpfish, one of the fastest growing farmed fish in Europe.

Places are limited – free early booking is advisable

Further details and the link to register are available here.




Morning symposium – Faraday Building Lecture Room

09:00-09:20 Registration & Welcome.

09:20-09:50 | The effects of stress on the welfare of farmed fish. Uses and misuses of cortisol measurements. Professor Michalis Pavlidis (University of Crete, Greece)

09:50-10:20 | The use of fish behaviour in aquaculture and its use as an operational welfare indicator. Dr. Sonia Rey-Planellas (Stirling University, UK)

10:20-10:50 | Fish welfare criteria in worldwide aquaculture: the CAREFISH project. Maria Filipa Castanheira (University of Algarve, Portugal)

10:50 – 11:10 Coffee Break

11:10-11:30 | Development of operational welfare indicators for lumpfish. Carolina Gutierrez-Rabadan (CSAR, Swansea University, UK)

11:30-11:50 | RSPCA (TBC)

11:50-12:10 | Industry/Retail (TBC)

12:00 – 13:00 Lunch Break

Afternoon Workshop – Welfare of Lumpfish (room to be confirmed)

13:00 -13:10 | Introduction to break out sessions

13:15 – 15:00 | Breakout sessions on three key challenges:

  1. a) Which welfare indicators are most meaningful for lumpfish?
  2. b) What can the industry do to improve the welfare of lumpfish?
  3. c) What does the public/consumers require?

15:00 – 15:30 | Feedback from each group presented by theme leaders

15:30 – 16:00 | General Discussion & Recommendations

16:00 Close



Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, Sara Barrento, Carolina Gutierrez-Rabadan

Swansea University, Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research

Research Assistant / Associate University of Glasgow


Research Assistant / Associate in Rodent Welfare During Euthanasia


Reference Number      024306

Location                        Gilmorehill Campus / Main Building

Department                  BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED

Job Type                        Full Time

Salary Range                 £28,660 – £32,236/£35,210 – £39,610

Closing Date                  11th March 2019

Job Purpose

The post-holder will contribute to a BBSRC funded project on “Decompression killing in laboratory rodents: an humane alternative to carbon dioxide?” working with Dorothy McKeegan and collaborators in the Universities of Edinburgh and Newcastle. Specifically, the job requires expert knowledge in physiological and/or neurophysiological research techniques in rodents or other species.

The post-holder will also be expected to contribute to the formulation and submission of research publications and research proposals as well as help manage and direct this complex and challenging project, as opportunities allow.

Further information can be found on the University of Glasgow webpage using the Job reference 024306.