Congratulations to This Year’s AWI Refinement Grant Recipients

AWI advocates for improving the care, housing, and handling of animals in research facilities to spare them needless suffering. To help achieve this, we offer Refinement Grants of up to $10,000 to develop and test innovative methods of improving the welfare of animals in research.

We congratulate this year’s AWI Refinement Grant recipients:

Dr. Brianna Gaskill, Purdue University: Analyzing social networks of group-housed laboratory male mice. Attempts to reduce mouse aggression—the leading cause of poor welfare in socially housed male mice—have not been very successful, perhaps because little is known about the social interactions between mice within the home cage. A social network analysis will be conducted using existing video to help identify effective interventions. 

Dr. Lucía Améndola, University of British Columbia: Assessing the welfare benefits of playpens for research rats. The goals of this project are (1) to determine whether daily access to a large, enriched area where rats can play improves the welfare of laboratory rats and (2) to determine whether rats with playpen access produce consistent results in standard behavioral tests, since the implementation of environmental enrichment is often limited by concerns that these will negatively affect research results. 

Dr. Nicole Herndon, University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign: Looking into best practices for helping research dogs retire to forever homes. This project seeks to assess whether pre-adoption interventions help dogs better adapt to their new homes. Interventions include socializing the dogs in an enriched outdoor area and training them to walk on leash and eliminate outdoors. 

Dr. Rachel Dennis, University of Maryland: Optimizing environmental enrichment for research quail. Research quail are typically housed in barren environments, which leads them to exhibit high levels of stress, abnormal behaviors, and injuries. This study will assess the effectiveness of specific environmental enrichments—such as foraging mats, mirrors, tall grass, and escape huts—on quail welfare. 

Rachel van Vliet, McGill University: Investigating the use of species-specific behavior by animal care staff as a source of enrichment for nonhuman primates in laboratories. The purpose of this study is to determine whether the use of species-typical behaviors for macaques and marmosets—for example, affiliative and submissive behaviors, such as crouching and averted gaze—will improve the relationship between animals and caregivers.

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