Professor Marian Dawkins CBE FRS

Emeritus Fellow; Professor of Animal Behaviour, Department of Zoology

My research interests include communication between birds and fish, social hierarchy formation, animal consciousness and animal welfare. I have particular interests in putting welfare research into practice and in the relationship between good welfare and the immune system.

Beginning with conversations over lunch in Somerville, Steve Roberts and I have been developing a computer/camera system for life-long monitoring the welfare of chickens called OpticFlock. OpticFlock works by analysing the statistical patterns made by the movements of chicken flocks. We have shown that it can detect anomalies in flock movement that reveal and predict welfare issues such as lameness. It can even pick out flocks at risk of becoming infected with Campylobacter days or weeks before the bacteria can be detected by standard culture methods.

OpticFlock has been successfully trialled on over 200 commercial flocks in the UK, Switzerland and the USA, and we currently have trials running in both Arkansas and Hungary. Our aim is to the make OpticFlock widely available as a ‘welfare sensor’ to farmers across the world and to improve the lives of the over 70 billion chickens raised globally each year.


Dawkins, M.S. (2023) Natural behaviour is not enough: Farm animal welfare needs modern answers to Tinbergen’s Four Questions. Animals 13(6), 988;

Dawkins, M.S. (2023) Farm animal welfare: beyond ‘natural’ behaviour. Science 379 no.6630:326-328.

Dawkins, M.S. (2022) Unconscious humans, autonomous machines and the difficulty of knowing which animals are sentient. Animal Sentience 7:20

Dawkins, M.S. (2022) The science of animal sentience and the politics of animal welfare should be kept separate.
Animal Sentience 31(8).

Düpjan, S. and Dawkins, M.S. (2022) Animal welfare and resistance to disease: interactions of affective state and the immune system. Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine 9:929805. Special Issue; Animal Welfare as Preventive Medicine.

Colles, F.M., Karasova, D., Crhanova, M., Preston, S.G., Smith, A.I., Dawkins, M.S., Rychlik, I., Gebhardt-Henrich. S.G. (2022) High resolution parallel sequencing reveals multi-strain Campylobacter in broiler chicken flocks testing ‘negative’ by conventional culture methods: implications for control of Campylobacter infection. Poultry Science

Dawkins, M.S. (2021) The Science of Animal Welfare: Understanding What Animals Want. Oxford University Press.

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