Dr. V.C. (Vivian) Goerlich

Dr. V.C. (Vivian) Goerlich

Assistant Professor
Animal Behaviour
+31 30 253 2747

Animal Adaptation

The connection between behaviour, physiology and welfare of animals is of special interest to Vivian Goerlich.

The ability of an animal to cope with, and adapt to, challenges in its environment is a crucial concept in Animal Welfare (Arndt et al 2022). An animal should be able to reach a state that it perceives as positive. This ability to adapt depends on the individual`s traits and on the environment it has been exposed to.

During certain phases in development, animals are more sensitive to external stimuli. During the perinatal period, comprising the prenatal as well as the postnatal period, for example, the social and physical environment may lead to (long-lasting) changes in physiology and behaviour. Experiences made during early life thus shape the young animal and determine its future phenotype. These phenotypic changes can even be passed along through generations by epigenetic mechanisms. Research on an individual’s welfare should therefore not only include its own current environment but also its early experiences and even the experiences of past generations.

Birds are interesting models to study prenatal effects. Eggs contain various substances such as nutrients and hormones which affect the development of the chick. The deposition of these substances from the mother to the egg are affected by the environment of the breeding female.

Especially animals in agriculture are exposed to a range of stimuli, which may affect their behaviour, health and welfare. For example, chicken embryos are exposed to a range of external factors during incubation, such as temperature, light, vibration and noise, which influence the developing chick.

Animal welfare risk assessments may help identify potentials hazards and stressors, but also benefits, in the environment (husbandry, management) that affect the welfare of an animal. In the Veterinary Master track `Animal Welfare Management`, and the international Master course `Ethology and Welfare`, both coordinated by Goerlich, students gain more insight in fundamental concepts and applied aspects of Animal Welfare.

Animals are part of the human society, may it be in agriculture, as pets, in zoological gardens or in the urban environment. At the Department Population Health Sciences, division of Animals in Science and Society, Goerlich studies fundamental and applied questions regarding the welfare of various species, ranging from pigeons, chicken, and Japanese quail to cows, dogs and giraffes.