Every summer, 16 high school students participating in Universidade Júnior at the University of Porto have the opportunity to learn about animal behaviour and welfare – and practice some of their new knowledge in measuring behaviour and welfare. In the Laboratory Animal Science group at i3S – Institute for Research and Innovation in Health, we receive two groups of 8 students who spend a week each with us. Of course, we teach them a lot of theory – we’re scientists after all! – but we try to do it in as playful a way as possible. And there’s plenty of animals.
There are direct behaviour observations of zebrafish habitat preference, and observations from video recordings of the behaviour of mice and rats during the light and dark period.
There is a visit to a dairy farm, where the students perform a simplified WelfareQuality assessment and also potentially get some close-up contact with cows.
And there is a demonstration of dog training as well as a chance to clicker train one’s colleagues.
For our research group, these are two intense but also very rewarding weeks. It is fantastic to be able to share our knowledge and passion for research into animal behaviour and welfare with 16- and 17-year olds who are as interested in animals as we are. We have been doing this since 2014, and of course we hope that some day we will meet a new colleague who once did Universidade Júnior with us!
Thanks to Sara Capas, Andreia Costa, Ana Maria Valentim and Gabriela Morello for the photos.