Students bring animal welfare out into the open
13 May 2013
Staff and PhD students from University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences took to the hills recently to attend an unusual conference focusing on animal welfare and behaviour research.
The two-day conference in the Peak District was the latest in an annual conference event informally called ‘Walks and Talks’. Normally held at a Youth Hostel in one of the UK’s national parks these conferences give students and academics the opportunity to present their research in an informal manner that encourages discussion with other members of the conference, before heading off for a three-hour hike on which attendees can discuss opportunities for collaboration as well as common problems within their studies.
One Bristol student, Lauren Harris commented: ‘Many postgraduate students are nervous about giving presentations; Walks and Talks is a brilliant opportunity for students to practice their presentation skills in a relaxed setting.’
Ralph Thompson, a third-year PhD candidate added: ‘The hikes are a surprisingly good way to get people to mix up and chat with someone new. Periodically, I glance back on the hikers and see students chatting in groups of twos; then when we cross a stile, those groups would change up forming new pairs.’
Along with Bristol, other universities participating in this year’s conference included: the Scottish Rural College (formerly Barony, Elmwood and Oatridge Colleges and the Scottish Agricultural College), the University of Lincoln, Newcastle University, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Edinburgh.
Conference and travel costs for Bristol students were provided for by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) and Bristol’s own Alumni Foundation. Conference organiser, Dr Michael Toscano, Research Fellow at Bristol said: ‘The support of these charities is absolutely pivotal in the current budget climate. Given the unique opportunity for students to hone their research and networking skills, these charities are making a direct investment in the next generation of scientists.’