Siobhan Abeyesinghe, BSc, Msc, PhD.

I was a postdoctoral researcher at Silsoe Research Institute. The broad theme of my research aims to understand the behavioural biology of farm animals in order to use this information to improve welfare. My research interests include:

  • Social cognition and behaviour;
  • The implications of cognition for livestock welfare - more specifically, can livestock understand and anticipate an event or the consequences of a choice or action with time? (see paper);
  • Development of common currency methods to characterise the interactive effect of multiple stressors on welfare;
  • The use and limits of motivational methods in assessment of welfare - particularly with reference to the effects of reinforcers that are delayed;
  • Gas stunning of poultry;
  • Poultry vision;
  • Management of feather pecking in turkeys.

At the beginning of October 2005 I relocated to the Royal Veterinary College along with other members of the multidisciplinary Animal Welfare Group. Our research programme for the next five years includes the following BBSRC-funded topics:

  • Visual perception of domestic fowl and pigs:
    Using behavioural methodology to obtain a mechanistic understanding of visual perception, which is vital to an understanding of visual discrimination of conspecifics and humans; the role of light in visually-mediated welfare problems, e.g. feather pecking and cannibalism in fowl and aggression in pigs; an objective scale to quantify the effectiveness of spectral light for farm animals; and a scientific basis for guidelines for both evaluating and specifying the light environment of housed pigs and fowl;
  • Social cognition and behaviour in pigs and domestic fowl:
    Investigating the consequences of the imposed physical and social environment for social cognition (conspecific discrimination), and behaviour in intensively kept pigs and poultry, ultimately leading to the prescription of optimum environments for facilitating social interaction; minimising aggression and maximising positive social experience;
  • Environmental management of pigs and fowl:
    Quantifying the biological and physical interactions between housed pigs and fowl and their physical environment, ultimately leading to improved welfare though new systems of environmental management for housed pigs and domestic fowl, based upon scientific understanding.

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