Scotland's Rural College
I started out in science as a Zoology graduate of the University of Manchester, before completing the MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Edinburgh.
I am particularly interested in farm animal welfare and behaviour and after completing the MSc I spent a few years working as a research assistant on multidisciplinary projects ranging from looking at sleep in sheep (University of Edinburgh and Roslin Institute) to perinatal stress in pigs (SAC).
My current research interests are in neonatal piglet survival and the impact of hyper-prolificacy, livestock housing systems that optimise animal welfare (Defra funded PigSAFE projects, Sainsburys funded FREESOW project) and early life experiences in small ruminants (EU funded AWIN project).
My PhD research investigated the behavioural and physiological indicators of piglet survival and whether survival could be improved using genetic selection strategies in alternative systems to the farrowing crate.
I was also involved in a large selection experiment (Genomum) looking at piglet survival on outdoor farrowing units. This continues to be an area of interest and my first post-doctoral research involved trying to solve the farrowing crate dilemma by re-designing the farrowing environment from first principles to optimise animal welfare and economic performance. This has resulted in the development of PigSAFE (Piglet and Sow Alternative Farrowing Environment) which is now in an implementation and commercialization phase involving both national and international collaborations.
Another current project that compliments both the PigSAFE and Genomum work looks at selecting the right sow for indoor loose farrowing (FREESOW). Engagement with key stakeholders in industry in order to translate science into practice and support welfare changes at the farm level is an important aspect of my job.