Research of the Adaptation Physiology Group

Research area and mission

Welfare and Health are shaped by the ability to adapt. The Adaptation Physiology Group (ADP) mission is to improve and facilitate adaptation by development of robust animals in supportive environments. The group focusses on long term effects of early life conditions on adaptive capacity and facilitation of adaptation during critical transition periods (e.g. weaning of piglets, onset of lactation in dairy cattle, hatching of chickens). Since many adaptive capacity issues are multifactorial the Adaptation Physiology Group chooses a physiological, multidisiplinary whole-animal approach in their research.

Research subjects of the program and strategy

The current focus of the group is on two major determinants of adaptive capacity of animals: (1) the influence of early life conditions on development of adaptive capacity; and (2) supplying adequate environmental resources to facilitate and support adaptation to a changing environment (e.g. during transition periods).

Processes in research

Because adaptive capacity is reflected in different biological systems (immune system, metabolism, reproduction and behaviour) and these systems are interlinked, we work in a team with backgrounds in different disciplines, so that integrated views on adaptive capacity and environmental support can be developed. As a result of multi disciplinary research, new views are developed on priorities in trade-offs between biological systems, the importance of early environmental challenges for development of adaptive capacity and cross links between different physiological systems.

Internal and external cooperation

The group is aware of the fact that it cannot accommodate expertise and techniques on all relevant disciplines. Therefore, we embrace cooperation with other groups (nationally and internationally) to sustain our knowledge in the disciplinary fields and to have access to new fundamental insights and techniques. We aim to unravel functional physiological adaptavie mechanisms and apply these to contribute to more (applied) science. From all our refereed publications, 80%, is joint with other groups within and outside Wageningen University & Research. We also have a strong collaboration with industrial partners, such as pharmaceutical companies, feed companies, breeding organizations, incubation technology companies, product boards, feeder design companies and AI centres that appreciate our scientific input.

Resources, funding and facilities

Research facilities include the laboratories for immunology and reproduction, the climate respiration facilities, the behavioural research laboratory and the research farm for cattle, pigs and poultry. Facilities for performing behavioural tests with dogs are also available in the present research facilities. Regular investments keep the facilities up to date. Recently, new incubation rooms for hatchery research were built as part of the climate respiration unit.