Professor Nick Sparks

Scotland's Rural College

Research Interests

I currently am Head of the Animal & Veterinary Sciences (AVS) Group within SRUC’s Research Division. In that role I am responsible for research activities in genetics, animal welfare, disease systems and avian sciences. We have around 100 staff in AVS, most based in the Roslin Institute Building; our Avian Sciences team is based on the Auchincruive Campus near Ayr.
Animal science has always been a strength in SRUC and today with the University of Edinburgh and the Moredun Research Institute we form one of the largest international animal science clusters. In addition to research, we are also involved in teaching mainly at post-graduate level including jointly running MScs in animal welfare with the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Applied poultry Science with the University of Glasgow.

My own research interests are focused on the health and welfare of poultry in systems that span intensive through to scavenging. So for example, the role of bird welfare in the host pathogens interactions is becoming increasingly recognised as potentially important for bird and consumer heath.  Much of my research is designed to be of relevance to the end-user in the immediate or short term. Consequently, I work closely with stakeholders, in particular poultry producers, but also government agencies and departments as well as NGOs.
Veterinary support is a key component to many of the projects that I manage as, increasingly, is input from economists, a discipline that is highly relevant across a range of issues that I research. Examples of the latter include work funded by DfID to improve the productivity of scavenging poultry in India, LINK-funded work to examine the role of methionine in diets for replacement pullets and, most recently, an FSA-funded study of Campylobacter contamination of water supply systems in poultry units.

Selected Publications

  • Caplen, G, Baker, L; Hothersall, B, McKeegan, D E F, Sandilands, V, Sparks, N H C, Waterman-Pearson, A E and Murrell, J C (2013). Thermal nociception as a measure of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug effectiveness in broiler chickens with articular pain.  Veterinary Journal 198(3):616–619
  • Ellis-Iversen, J., Ridley, A., Morris, V., Sowa, A., Harris, J., Atterbury, R., Sparks, N. and Allen, V. (2012) Persistent environmental reservoirs on farms as risk factors for Campylobacter in commercial poultry. Epidemiology and Infection, 140(5), 916-924
  • McKeegan, D.E.F., Sparks, N.H.C., Sandilands, V., Demmers, TG.M., Boulcott, P. and Wathes, C.M. (2011) Physiological responses of laying hens during whole-house killing with carbon dioxide. British Poultry Science, 52 (6), 645-657
  • Wright, H W; Bartley, K; Nisbet, A J, McDevitt, R. M., Sparks, N. H. C., Brocklehurst, S, and Huntley, J. F. (2009). The testing of antibodies raised against poultry red mite antigens in an in vitro feeding assay, preliminary screen for vaccine candidates. Experimental and Applied Acarology, 48 (1-2), 81-91
  • Bartley, K., Nisbet, A. J., Offer, J. E., Sparks, N. H. C., Wright, H. W., and Huntley, J. F. (2009) Histamine release factor from Dermanyssus gallinae (De Geer): characterization and in vitro assessment as a protective antigen International Journal for Parasitology, 39, 447-456
  • Acamovic, T., Sandilands, V, Kyriazakis, I., and Sparks, N. H. C. (2008). The effect of organic diets on the performance of pullets maintained under semi-organic conditions. Animal, 2, 117-124
  • Sparks, N. H. C., Conroy, M. A., and Sandilands, V (2008). Socio-economic drivers for UK organic pullet rearers and the implications for poultry health. British Poultry Science, 49, 525-532