David Fraser

Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Facial expression, vocalizations and eye temperature as potential indicators of pain in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) (2019)

Pain assessment in animals typically relies on a combination of physiological and behavioural measures. Unfortunately, many of these measures require handling the animals or physical sampling, which are invasive and can result in a stress response. The aim of this thesis was to identify some possible non-invasive indicators of pain in harbour seals as no clear species-specific indicators had been established. I investigated whether or not seals showed changes in facial expression and other behaviours (Chapter 2), vocalizations (Chapter 3), or eye temperature (Chapter 4) in response to the routine procedures of flipper-tagging and microchipping. Seals showed changes in facial expression and in several other behaviours in response to the procedures. Most notably, orbital tightening increased from before to after tagging and microchipping (p
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Understanding the welfare of rats living in standard versus semi-naturalistic laboratory environments (2016)

Rats are one of the most commonly used animals in research. Differences in rat housing lead to differences in brain, behaviour, physiology and health. These differences can also affect rat welfare and the validity of data obtained from these animals. Few studies have assessed the consequences of housing rats in standard laboratory cages compared to more complex, naturalistic environments; fewer still have assessed these consequences in females, or after more than a few weeks of differential housing. The aim of my thesis was to assess the sustained welfare consequences of housing female rats in standard versus semi-naturalistic laboratory conditions. The psychological well-being of animals is central to the concept of animal welfare, so Chapter 2 provides a review of the scientific methods of assessing affective states in animals, how these methods have been applied to rats, and what the results can tell us about rats’ experience of various emotional states. Chapter 3 investigated rats’ propensity to engage in behaviours that are not possible in standard laboratory cages: burrowing, climbing and standing upright. Results indicated that burrowing and standing upright may be especially important to rats. Chapter 4 assessed the sustained affective consequences of standard versus semi-naturalistic housing using an anticipatory behaviour test. Results indicated that standard-housed rats were experiencing poorer welfare than the semi-naturalistic-housed rats. These studies were not designed to test differences in health between the two housing conditions, but given the very limited amount of research on the long-term health effects of differential housing in rats, Chapter 5 documented differences in body weight and development of naturally-occurring tumours. Standard-housed rats were much heavier than semi-naturalistic-housed rats, but there were no differences in the rate of tumour development. Collectively, these results indicate that, compared to the semi-naturalistic housing assessed in this thesis, standard laboratory housing for rats compromises rat welfare by 1) preventing the performance of important natural behaviours; 2) leading to negative affective states; and 3) leading to overweight animals predisposed to developing other health issues. Implications for rat welfare and the quality of the science obtained from standard-housed rats are discussed, and recommendations are provided.

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Translocation stress in Stephens' kangaroo rats : how individual variation influences success (2014)

Wildlife translocation involves the relocation of free-ranging animals from one area to another. It is commonly used to combat species loss. However, its outcomes are poor; some reviews put the success rate as low as 10-25%. This is likely influenced by a lack of attention to individuals. Translocations involve some combination of stressors (e.g., capture, captivity, monitoring, environmental change). Although animals have evolved behavioural and physiological mechanisms to manage challenges, the combination of stressors during translocation can compromise these coping mechanisms. Personality should have significance for translocations as individuals with certain personality types and life experience may handle translocation stressors better than others. The aim of this thesis was to profile individual Stephens’ kangaroo rats (SKR), Dipodomys stephensi, and to assess their responses to translocation. To do this a combination of behavioural and physiological measures were used. Personality types were identified using quantitative and qualitative measures from mirror-image stimulation and predator scent tests done while animals were held before release (Chapters 3 and 5). A radioimmunoassay specific for cortisol in SKR fecal extract was developed and adrenocortical activity (cortisol) in response to predator urine was reliably assessed in fecal samples (Chapter 2). Fecal cortisol concentration (FCC) was used to measure the effect of translocation stressors, including the use of radio transmitters (Chapters 4 and 5). Survival was affected by individual variation in behavioural and physiological responses (Chapter 5). Assertiveness, Excitability and Persistence were identified as three personality dimensions. Overall, FCC increased in response to temporary captivity. Radio transmitters caused a short-term elevation in FCC 6 days after attachment but not at 30 days. Survival to 1 month was similar for animals with and without transmitters. SKR with lower Assertiveness and Excitability and with higher basal FCC had higher short-term survival. Higher Assertiveness was correlated with lower basal FCC. SKR that had a smaller change in FCC during captivity had higher long-term survival. This study lends convincing support that variation in personality affects how well an animal copes with translocation and has consequences for survival. Knowing how to manage different personality types may determine how successfully a translocated population establishes itself.

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Understanding humane expectations : public and expert attitudes towards human-wildlife interactions (2014)

The field of wildlife management has been on a collision course with societal values regarding animal use for some time. Although wildlife populations are still managed largely under the “North American model of wildlife conservation” to accommodate consumptive uses, many people, often with different concerns, want to be heard in decisions about wildlife. These human dimensions present a challenge to wildlife management, a field in which policy has been generally driven by experts. This research used several public engagement methods to understand broader attitudes towards wildlife management and how to incorporate them into policy. Participants with varying levels of wildlife experience in British Columbia, Canada, were asked in online and telephone surveys for their attitudes towards, and acceptance of, specific wildlife activities and management practices. Findings indicate a gap between public and expert opinions on invasive (e.g., relocation) and lethal management practices (e.g., problem bears, predator control, protection of endangered species). Problems also emerged with the public view of wildlife feeding. This led to a review of its motivations, types and consequences, and an evaluative framework was proposed to assess when feeding is acceptable. When asked to rate the harm to wildlife caused in various ways (hunting, vehicle collisions, pollution, etc.), experts and the public largely agreed on the relative importance of harms, indicating considerable potential for finding common ground between conservation-oriented and welfare-oriented citizens. However, some current management practices, especially those involving killing animals, lacked broad public support and may be improved upon with public participation in policy development, especially with women, urban residents, those with low wildlife engagement and animal-protectionist values. This could take the form of public polling or increased representation on decision-making committees. Societal expectations for managing human-wildlife interactions in BC documented by this research include ensuring that actions have an appropriate conservation purpose, are controllable, use humane methods, and appear fair to both people and wildlife. Including a broader public, educating both experts and the public on issues of humaneness, and strengthening wildlife and animal protection laws and enforcement, may serve to better align wildlife policy with societal values.

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Canadian poducer and citizen perspectives on farm animal welfare: Identifying shared and differing values (2013)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Use and perceptions of the Emergency Slaughter Program in British Columbia (2017)

When dealing with acutely injured or non-ambulatory dairy cows, dairy producers in British Columbia must decide whether to treat, ship, euthanize, or use the Emergency Slaughter Program (ESP). This thesis focused on the last of these options. The specific injuries and conditions that result in ESP use are unknown, although identification of these reasons could allow additional monitoring of cows when they may be vulnerable to emergency slaughter, and determine the most appropriate reasons for ESP use. Analysis of 812 ante-mortem inspection documents found that a large proportion of cows in the ESP were non-ambulatory (63%) or had sustained what were likely calving-related injuries (37%). Two distinct uses for the ESP emerged including 1) traumatic incidents (i.e. emergencies) such as a fractured femur and 2) ‘inhumane to transport’, a category that likely includes non-emergencies such as lameness where cows were not necessarily in acute distress but could not be transported humanely. Anecdotal reports suggest that the ESP may be controversial among dairy industry professionals, but to date the overall perceptions including concerns and benefits of the program are unknown. Understanding these perceptions can be used to provide recommendations for improving the ESP particularly in situations where cow welfare is compromised and individuals must make decisions in potentially uncertain and unwanted situations. Interviews and focus groups with 40 dairy industry professionals revealed positive and negative perceptions of the ESP influenced by 1) an individual’s values, 2) the perceived operational legitimacy of the ESP and 3) overarching concerns about the dairy industry. Resulting recommendations for the ESP include: 1) clarification of cow conditions that warrant the use of the ESP for non-emergency situations, 2) additional training for veterinarians on ante-mortem inspection, 3) specification of precise timing parameters for when the ESP can be used, 4) the use of proper equipment and procedures that ensure meat quality and hygiene of carcasses, 5) added collaboration between slaughterhouses, transporters, veterinarians, producers and the dairy industry to allow the appropriate use of the ESP in other parts of British Columbia and 6) proactive culling and the use of on-farm protocols for making end-of-life decisions.

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Hand-rearing harbour seal pups (Phoca vitulina) : the effect of diet and supplementary heat on growth and survival (2010)

Hundreds of stranded harbour seals pups (Phoca vitulina) are brought to wildlife rescue centres every year, often unweaned and in poor body condition. Typical hand-rearing diets include artificial milk-replacers and diets based on macerated fish, both normally fed via gavage. Mortality rates for these animals can be high and weight gains on artificial formulas are low. This study was designed to determine the effect of the following treatments on the growth and survival of captive orphaned seals: (1) feeding pups an artificial milk-replacer versus a fish-based formula; and (2) the provision of supplementary heat. Pups admitted to the facility in summer 2007 (n=145) and 2008 (n=98) were randomly assigned to one of two diets and fed until weaning at roughly 20 days of age. In 2008, 25 pups were also provided with a supplementary heat source. Diet and heat treatments were compared using average daily gain (ADG) and mortality rates. In 2007, with pups fed formulas at 8% of body weight per day, pups fed milk-replacer gained more (43 g/d ± 12, mean ± SEM) than those fed fish-formula (loss of 13 g/d ± 6; p0.05) or survival rate (p>0.05) but did show increased heat-seeking behaviour at ambient temperatures below 16°C (p
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