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Summary of Interests
My main research interests are animal (social) behaviour, cognitive enrichment, welfare and its assessment. I have always been fascinated by the complexity of animal behaviour and cognition. In particular, I am interested in how we can use knowledge about behaviour and cognitive capacities to improve welfare of animals in captivity. This is not only possible by adapting the animal’s environment according to its species needs, but also by informing and guiding the public and policy makers in order to protect animal welfare. I am further interested in qualitative behaviour assessment, ethics of consuming animal products and the psychology behind people’s food choices as well as human-animal conflicts and wildlife protection. I have been involved in a variety of projects working with different species such as foraging behaviour in corvids, personality assessment in piglets and calves, feeding behaviour of dairy calves or sea turtle protection.
Area of Expertise
Due to the interdisciplinarity of my master program I can draw from different disciplines such as animal cognition, behaviour, ethics, law, comparative medicine and animal husbandry. During my last year of my MSc degree I was involved in a project from the University of British Columbia, Canada, where I was able to gain valuable experience in conducting personality tests and handling cows.
My PhD work is mainly focused on studying the effect of repeated cognitive testing on the welfare of goats. One goal is to test if cognitive testing (= cognitive test battery) is perceived as enriching by the animals and thus has positive effects on stress reactivity, behavioural flexibility and human-animal interactions in subsequent tests. In order to assess behavioural parameters, I used various test paradigms such as fear/personality tests (i.e. Open Field Test, Novel Human Test, Human preference Test) and problem-solving tests (i.e. A-not-B Test), combined with the analysis of heart rate parameters.
Further, I am interested in novel techniques to measure subjective emotional states of animals with the potential to ease and improve welfare assessment. QBA or qualitative behaviour assessment has been suggested as a practical tool for on-farm welfare assessment but has also been criticised for being too subjective. One of my current goals is to validate qualitative descriptors used in goats with quantitative measures from my previously mentioned tests. This work has been funded by a small research grant from UFAW and allows us to train students in Italy in the usage of QBA.
Project management, handling and training farm animals, event planning, website management, research communication
Other Key Information
Currently based in Switzerland, looking for a Research Associate/technician position/PostDoc/NGO position preferably in Switzerland, but also Austria, Germany or close-by. Available from January 2021.My webpage (in German)