Animal Behaviour Gets Danish Attention

DENMARK - A PhD course on stress reactions in animals is attracting PhD students from many European countries. The organisers are very pleased about the interest in the course, although it means that not all applications can be met this time round.
calendar icon 12 December 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

There is considerable interest in finding out how and, particularly, why animals react to stress the way they do. The applications to a new PhD course, developed by two scientists from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, have certainly been pouring in to such an extent that several applicants have had to be turned down.

The interest in participating in one of the first PhD courses from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences is so large, that some applicants have been turned down.
Photo: DJF

One of the organisers, senior scientist Mette S. Herskin, regretting that several have applied in vain, but also pleased that there is so much interest in the course.

- We have worked hard at putting together a good course and have engaged a team of brilliant guest speakers for the teaching. It is enormously satisfying with such an interest in the subject, and we are contemplating repeating the course, she explains. The maximum number of participants was set at 30 and when the deadline had passed, 36 students from several European countries had applied.

Stress in a wider context

The scientists from the behaviour and stress biology group at the Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition are looking forward to giving students the chance to gain in-depth knowledge of the mechanisms that control stress reactions. As is evident from the list of participants, not only scientists working with animal welfare can benefit from a better understanding of stress reactions in animals.

Several research branches have no tradition for looking at stress in animals in a wider context, as the scientists – understandably enough – focus on the specific body parts or cell types they are studying, explains Mette S. Herskin, who has been working with animal stress reactions for a number of years. She and her colleague, senior scientist Jens Malmkvist, who is a co-organiser of the course, are greatly looking forward to welcoming the participants in the middle of January.

- The PhD students have different backgrounds and approaches to stress, which should give a good basis for some exciting discussions. There are, for example, people who work with the behaviour of pets, stress in artic animals as a result of global warming, traumatised humans, animal models of human diseases, and animal welfare, recounts Mette S. Herskin.

More courses on the way

Mette and Jens expect to be able to offer other PhD courses with focus on subjects related to stress in animals.

- When we planned this course on stress in animals, we saw it as the first in a number of courses all dealing with new trends in stress biology, which we will hold at intervals of two to three years. That is what we are aiming for anyway, she says.

For the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences it is pleasing that one of the first PhD courses offered by the faculty has been in such demand.

- We are really pleased that there is so much interest for the PhD courses we have initiated, says Bo Kjelde, who is the administrator of the faculty’s PhD school SAFE, which has formally existed for just over a year and which has co-financed the PhD course. The course is also supported by the doctoral school SNAK and the stress group at Aarhus University, which spans several faculties.

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