I have extensive research experience in animal physiology and behaviour, with a particular interest in the physiology of maternal behaviour and how that affects offspring survival. Much of my career has involved working on improving the farrowing environment for the pig.
The impetus for this results from work myself and Professor Alistair Lawrence conducted looking at the stress physiology of the farrowing pig in intensive systems and the impact on her maternal behaviour.
This led to further postdoctoral research concentrating on prenatal stress and maternal behaviour. The results suggested that piglets born to mothers that had experienced social stress during pregnancy showed an increase in their own stress reactivity and posed questions about early life experiences (prenatal and neonatal) and the impact on later life.
This led to work funded by the BBSRC Animal Welfare Initiative: in collaboration with colleagues from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and the Roslin Institute, researchers from our group (Dr Kenny Rutherford) to investigate the consequences of such prenatal stress for long-term welfare and productivity.
Additional collaborative work has involved looking at improving neonatal piglet survival in alternative, welfare-friendly systems using genetic selection strategies (Genomum), as well as co-ordinating an EU funded (Welfare Quality) project investigating the behavioural and physiological aspects of piglet survival.
My main current role is as Programme Director for the MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at University of Edinburgh and regularly teach and supervise MSc dissertation projects.
I supervised a PhD student (Dr Emma Baxter) who studied the behavioural and physiological indicators of piglet survival and the influence of genetics and environment.
I am currently co-supervising a PhD student (Nadiah Yusof) who will study the impact of pre-natal stress on the maternal behaviour of sheep.
Address: Animal & Veterinary Sciences, SRUC, Roslin Institute Building, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG
Fax: 0131 535 3121