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Thursday, 26th August 2021, 9:00-17:00 scroll down for full schedule!


Following the ASAB Summer Meeting this year, there is a one-day satellite meeting to discuss issues related to the STRANGE framework for animal behaviour research. This event is hosted by Mike Webster, Ellis Langley, Cat Hobaiter, and Christian Rutz from the Schools of Biology and Psychology/Neuroscience, University of St Andrews.

It has long been realised that an animal’s behaviour is shaped by its genetic make-up, experience, and social background. Almost all the animals we test are distinct – or ‘strange’ – in these regards, and this can lead to challenges in extrapolating our findings to larger populations whose behaviour we seek to understand. This online meeting will focus on the new STRANGE framework aimed at identifying, mitigating, and reporting sampling biases in animal behaviour research. The STRANGE acronym refers to test subjects’: Social background; Trappability and self-selection; Rearing history; Acclimation and habituation; Natural changes in responsiveness; Genetic make-up; and Experience. Sampling biases with regards to any of these factors can significantly impact the interpretation of experimental outcomes, limit the generalisability of findings, complicate comparisons between studies, and hamper reproducibility. But it’s not all bad news! Identifying and understanding these sources of variation between samples and studies can produce powerful new insights into animal behaviour and create exciting new research avenues.

How STRANGE are your study animals? Do some of your subjects engage better with tasks than others? What is the role of subjects’ rearing history and experience, and of different testing protocols, in shaping participation rates and test performance? Are certain demographic groups in your study system easier to work with than others? How pervasive are sampling biases in your field, and how may they affect research outcomes and progress? And, importantly, what can we as a community do to better recognise, avoid, report, and explore sampling biases? Please submit an abstract for a talk or poster on any aspect of STRANGE, and bring questions and ideas to join in the open discussions following each talk session.

You can find out more about the STRANGE framework for animal behaviour research here:




9:10 Christian Rutz, University of St Andrews, Welcome and meeting format

9:20 Mike Webster, University of St Andrews, Opening talk

9.40 Handover / 10 minute break


  • Anna Hills, University of Manchester Sampling and experimental design decisions affect behaviour measured under standardised conditions in hermit crabs

  • Krista van den Heuvel, NIOO-KNAW Understanding individual variation in spatial reversal learning performance in great tits (Parus major)

  • Blake Morton, University of Hull 'STRANGE’ or ordinary? Wild raccoons are willing but not (very) exploratory or persistent in psychometric studies of innovation

10.20 Presenter Q&A and discussion

10:50 20 minute break


  • Molly Kressler, University of Exeter Passive traps and sampling bias: social effects and personality affect trap entry by sticklebacks

  • Mathilde Lalot, LECD How PCT studies can be used to highlighted the importance of adopting the STRANGE framework

11:20 Presenter Q&A followed by general discussion

12:00 Lunch break


  • Mathilde Lalot, LECD How cognitive bias can be used to highlighted the importance of adopting the STRANGE framework

  • Michael Green, Liverpool John Moores University Transgenerational Effects of Paternal Enrichment in Danio rerio

13.20 Presenter Q&A and discussion


  • Manon Schweinfurth, University of St Andrews Capuchins (Cebus apella) and their aversion to inequity

  • Fay Clark, University of Bristol How to Accommodate Cognitive Testing of ‘STRANGE’ Animals in Zoos: Lemur Bootcamp as a Case-study

13.55 Presenter Q&A and discussion

14.10 10 minute break


  • Jemma Forman, University of Sussex Self-selection in companion animals: domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and domestic cats (Felis catus)

  • Jamie Ahloy-Dallaire, Université Laval STRANGE mice, WEIRD people, and the limits of translation in biomedical research

  • Jessica Cait, University of Guelph STRANGE because CRAMPED: the adverse impact of conventional housing on mortality and stress-sensitive diseases in laboratory rodent, a systematic review and meta-analysis

14:50 Presenter Q&A and discussion

15:20 10 minute break


  • Laura Cuaya, Eötvös Loránd University Bright and strange dogs in comparative neuroimaging

  • Daniel Palacios, Oregon State University Assessing bias in tagging studies of large whales: an application with Argos tags on blue whales off the US West Coast

15:40 Ellis Langley, University of St Andrews, Closing talk

16:00 General discussion

17.00 End of meeting

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