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My research at the Mason lab mainly focuses on the interrelationships between housing conditions, stereotypic behaviours (repetitive behaviours caused by frustration and/or brain dysfunction) and reproduction in captive carnivores, using mink as a model species. This has potential implications for both the welfare of zoo and fur-farmed carnivores, as well as the welfare of carnivores reintroduced into the wild. Understanding how stereotypic behaviour is affected by housing and how it in turn relates to the overall behaviour of the animal also help us refine the use of stereotypic behaviour as a welfare indicator in captivity. During my PhD I tested the hypotheses that: i) environmental enrichment increases reproductive success by reducing stress and/or normalising brain function; and ii) stereotyping animals have compromised reproduction due to captivity-induced brain alterations that impair the control of all behaviours. My current postdoctoral research is of a more applied nature: it aims to fill the gap in welfare research regarding cage size regulations for mink by testing animals' preferences for different cage sizes as used in both Europe and Canada, where regulations assume that more space is better with no real evidence. It will thus help inform future revisions of the Canadian Codes of Practice. I am also involved in a research project in collaboration with the University of Navarra (Spain) looking at how differences in the management of the early environment of barn owls can influence their adult behaviour and, eventually, their success when reintroduced into the wild.
Check my current research in UoG's Photo Friday! http://www.uoguelph.ca/research/discover-our-research/photo-friday/2015-08-14