My main role is as Programme Director for the MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour & Welfare. This new taught programme is designed for people seeking professional careers working with domestic (pet) and captive animals (farm and zoo) animals. The clinical animal behaviour route through the programme has been provisionally validated by the ASAB Accreditation Committee as delivering the academic elements necessary for an individual to achieve ASAB certification as a clinical animal behaviourist. The animal welfare and assessment route through the programme is of similarly high quality and is designed for zoo keepers and farm animal welfare assessors.
My research activities are currently focused on publishing the research output of the Anthozoology Research Unit that I founded at the University of Chester, though I expect to begin Newcastle based projects over the coming year.
My background is in behavioural ecology, with my PhD thesis on the sexual strategies of European blackbirds, gained with the Open University. This followed on from my BSc (Jnt Hons) in Psychology & Zoology from the University of Manchester. In-between there were research assistantships in epidemiology and conservation biology, and a PgDip in Behavioural Ecology from the then Manchester Polytechnic. Temporary lecturing posts in animal behaviour and psychology with The Open University and various London universities lead to a lectureship in Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, gaining a PGCE (FAHE) and ILT experienced practitioner status along the way. I returned to animal behaviour with a senior lectureship in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Chester in 2002, becoming Deputy Head of Biological Sciences and founding the Anthrozoological Research Unit before heading to the North East in 2009. For just over a year I worked out of Newcastle University on VETNET LLN funded project to develop the Animal Behaviour & Training Council to co-ordinate self-regulation of animal trainers and behaviour therapists in the UK (see www.abtcouncil.org.uk). This project grew beyond all expectations as the need for self-regulation became more apparent and I continue to work with the ABTC, currently as Treasurer and technical consultant. I am also Secretary to the ASAB Accreditation Committee and a member of ASAB Council, and until recently was Treasurer to the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES).
I have lectured across the range of topics in animal behaviour and welfare, research methods and biopsychology at the University of Chester, Manchester Metropolitan University and The Open University (Summer Schools). My pedagogic emphasis is upon encouraging students to engage personally with the material, basing my lectures around applications of academic knowledge and understanding, and assignments designed to explicitly develop academic and related professional skills.
Along the way I took an active interest in degree programme design to develop an integrated experience for students that explicitly supported their learning and developed their engagement with graduate level skills and their application to industry. I have acted as academic consultant or external examiner to undergraduate programmes in a range of Post 1992 and Russel Group institutions.
I have recently written the MSc Applied Animal Behaviour & Welfare programme in the School of Agriculture, Food & Rural Development here at Newcastle. For this I have devloped a flexible teaching model based around short residential schools at the University and tutor supported distance learning through the VLE. The emphasis is upon applying core academic principles and knowledge to industry-based applications that match the students' interests and career aspirations, using web-based resources in both the academic and public sphere. The clinical animal behaviour rote through the programme has recently been been provisionally validated by the ASAB Accreditation Committee as delivering the academic elements necessary for an individual to achieve ASAB certification as a clinical animal behaviourist. The animal welfare and assessment route through the programme is of similarly high quality and is designed for zoo keepers and farm animal welfare assessors.
My research interests lie in human-animal interactions and the welfare of companion animal species, with particular emphasis on horse welfare. All my research is applied and conducted on working or pet animals and their owners, which ensures that the findings are applicable to owners and the industry. I am also a keen horsewoman and actively test out the implications of research findings on my own animals, developing industry-friendly techniques for evidence-based improvements to welfare.
Current research topics include the role of animal personality in animal welfare, behavioural and physiological indicators of stress in horses, risk factors for behavioural problems in horses, effectiveness of animal behaviour counselling, and the psychology of human-animal interactions.
I founded the Anthrozoology Unit at the University of Chester, which included a Visiting Professor and four research students, and I was Deputy Chair of the University of Chester's Animal Ethics Committee.
I have examined research degrees for the the Universities of Bristol, Lincoln, Pretoria and the Open University; and reviewed grant applications for The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), The Research Council of Norway, and The Irish Research Council (IRCSET). I review manuscripts for the journals Animal Behaviour, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Animal Welfare, The Veterinary Journal, Equine Veterinary Journal, New Zealand Veterinary Journal.
Hughes, T. (2011). Physiological and behavioural measures of stress in domestic horses. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.
Hockenhull, J. S. (2010). The epidemiology of behaviour problems and risk factors for poor welfare in UK leisure horses. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.
Jobling, R. (1010). Effective horse behaviour consultancy: an exploration by means of a social cognition approach. Unpublished MPhil thesis, University of Liveropool.
Flentje, R. (2008). How reliable are standardised behaviour tests and are they valid in predicting the suitability for use of police horses? Unpublished MRes thesis, University of Chester.
Recent grants from Bransby Home of Rest for Horses – PGR stipend (£25,000), HEA (Bioscience) – research teaching enhancement (£9,850), University of Chester KTP Award – horse owner education with ERIC (£10,000), RAE Capability Funding – stress indicators in horses (£2,017).