If you are interested in writing a proposal for a 1-year postdoc project on goats at FBN Dummerstorf, contact me via email or find more information here.
My name is Christian Nawroth. I stare at goats in order to better understand how they perceive their physical and social environment. My main research interests focus on animal cognition (in particular farm animals), applied ethology, animal welfare science and animal ethics.
In April 2017, I started working on a project on goat cognition and enrichment with Dr. Jan Langbein at the Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (Germany) and Dr. Nina Keil at Agroscope Taenikon (Switzerland). The project will provide insights into how domestication has affected the behaviour and cognition of goats. In addition, it will foster knowledge on the long-term effects of repeated cognitive training on behavioural, motivational and physiological parameters of domestic animals, and thus paves the way to a better incorporation of cognitive enrichment into concepts of animal welfare.
Horse behaviour/cognition – Anne Schrimpf (MPI CBS, Germany)
Penguin behaviour/cognition – Livio Favaro (University of Turin, Italy)
Developmental psychology in children – Mirjam Ebersbach (University of Kassel, Germany)
Cattle behaviour/cognition – Dan Weary (University of British Columbia, Canada)
In 2015, I received a DFG (German Research Foundation) fellowship to study complex human-animal interactions in goats at Queen Mary University of London. The main goals of this project were to investigate what kind of information goats extract from humans and how they use it in their decision-making processes. Our results indicate that goats, similar to dogs, show human-directed behaviour when confronted with a task they cannot solve on their own, differentiate between human attentional states, and learn socially from humans in a spatial problem-solving task.
We also found that personality traits of goats affect their performance in various learning and cognitive tasks. All tests were conducted at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Kent/UK.
During my PhD studies (supervised by Eberhard von Borell), I investigated a variety of physico- and sociocognitive capacities of farm animals. In particular, I studied whether test paradigms previously used with primates and dogs are suitable to test livestock animals. Here, my main research focused on the cognitive capacities of domestic pigs. This resulted in 5 peer-reviewed publications. We found that very young pigs are able to use indirect information to find food and, like dogs, are able to use complex human pointing gestures and a human´s head direction to a location that contains a reward.
In addition, I conducted cognitive studies on dwarf goats at the FBN in Dummerstorf, Germany. What first started as a side project quickly turned into a productive collaboration with 4 peer-reviewed publications. Goats showed to be sensitive to the attentional state of a human, but, unlike pigs, were not able to use the head direction of a human to find a hidden reward. Surprisingly, goats showed exceptional skills in anticipating changes in their physical environment. Here, some individuals were able to follow complex movements of hidden objects – a task in which other non-primate mammals (e.g., dogs) normally perform poorly.