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.