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Liesbeth Bolhuis studied Animal Science at Wageningen University and obtained her MSc degree (with honours) in 1997. She did a PhD on personalities in pigs, combining ethology and physiology, at the same university (degree in 2004). After a part time appointment as teacher at the Ethology Group in 2003, she started at the Adaptation Physiology Group. She is the leader of the Behavioural Physiology research and education within that group, and has supervised 15 PhD students/post docs and more than 80 MSc students. The Behaviour Physiology team strives to maintain a sound mixture of fundamental research, applied research and involvement in experimental developments and is very enthusiastic in disseminating research results to the general public and stakeholders of the livestock industry. A major focus of the team is to study the impact of (early life) environmental conditions on behavioural development, welfare and resilience of farm animals. Liesbeth has coordinated large successful multi- and interdisciplinary research projects, e.g. on facilitating the weaning transition for piglets by stimulating mother-offspring information transfer, the consequences of a novel breeding strategy (incorporating social genetic effects) for behaviour and welfare of pigs and strategies to stimulate early foraging in piglets. She currently coordinates multiple multi- and interdisciplinary projects. She has (co)authored more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 4 book chapters.
Behavioural Physiology research
Many welfare and health problems in farm animals arise from a mismatch between the animals’ adaptive capacity and the conditions they are exposed to. We investigate how genetic background, early life experiences and characteristics of the environment influence behavioural and physiological processes that reflect or affect animal welfare, health and resilience.
Research interests (with examples of research topics)
1. Individual (personality) traits affecting behaviour and coping with challenges (Characteristics of tail biting pigs and feather pecking laying hens; New breeding strategies and welfare and behaviour of pigs; Anxiety and fearfulness; Coping styles).
2. Effects of early life conditions on behavioural development (Impact of environmental enrichment and alternative systems on behavioural development, cognition and resilience; Early feeding conditions and their impact on behaviour and adaptive capacity).
3. Influence of social interactions and social relationships on behaviour and welfare (Impact of emotional contagion, social support, social learning, affective and injurious behaviours on behaviour and welfare).
4. Effects of feeding strategies on behaviour and welfare (Facilitating the development of independent feeding in piglets to reduce health and welfare problems after weaning; Role of mother-offspring information transfer in the development of feeding behaviour; Fibrous foods and satiety in pigs; Impact of diet on damaging behaviours like tail biting).