Had a great trip back to the UK this month, which encompassed rather too quick visits back to family in Ipswich and Sheffield and the 50th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology in Edinburgh. The last time I was in Edinburgh was the 25th Congress in 1991, which was also my first one as a researcher, 10 months into my PhD at Cambridge. Since then, I've managed to get to 18 congresses around the world, been ISAE Treasurer, Junior Vice-President, President and Senior Vice-President, and chaired the organization of the 45th Congress in Indianapolis. I truly love this academic family and these meetings continue to be one of the highlights of my year, both professionally and socially. Applied ethologists are genuinely lovely people (only one or two exceptions!), and even though the annual congress is "work" and tiring, it is also a re-energizer. This meeting was extra special because of the 50 year significance, which made it the largest yet at just under 550 participants, including quite a few who have not been for a few years. I worked out that I managed to interact with about 150 people, both old and new, but there were still some that I lost in the crowd and will have to wait until next year to catch up with! The big take-home from this Congress I think was the increasing attention being paid to emotional state in animals. Mike Mendl and Liz Paul organized a one-day workshop prior to the meeting on this topic and ended up with about 330 attendees! I couldn't make it, as I had a ISAE Council meeting, but I did send along a poster on the use of HRV for measuring emotional state. Other great news items for me was Jean-Loup Rault getting the New Investigator Award - I was on Jean-Loup's PhD Committee - and also the decision of Council to award the 2020 Congress to Bangalore, India. This is a big deal, as it will be the first time ISAE has been to Asia (other than Japan) and I am excited that I will be visiting a country that is number 1 on my bucket-list!
Since getting back, I've been busy getting on top of the usual email mountain and also carrying out a study looking at the effect of a cooling system on lactating sows during heat stress. The heat applied was 95F (35C), which given the current ambient temperatures in the farrowing house of about 32C, did not necessitate inputting too much extra heat to hit the target. Many of the indoor pig units in the US are equipped to deal quite well with the winter thermal extremes, but not so much the summer ones. Our system (I'm working alongside Dr Schinckel and Dr Stwalley from Purdue and Dr Johnson from our group on this one) looked very promising, and watch this space for more details as the project progresses.