Biomarkers of positive animal welfare state

Finding measurable markers indicating that animals have positive life experience

New methods for the assessment of animal welfare are needed to match the new and future standards for welfare. Over the last 5-10 years, the definition of animal welfare has started to encompass the concept that animals should experience a “life worth of living” and therefore the next generation of biomarkers for animal welfare need to reflect a positive welfare state and a positive mental status. The project aims to screen biomarkers that have been linked to positive emotion, or positive perception of situations by human and laboratory animals.

The candidate will run animal experiments using sheep exposed to known positive, neutral and negative situations. The emotional state of the animal will be measured at different time points using established behavioural tests.

Biological samples, primarily blood and also less invasive samples such as saliva will be collected to measure a suite of potential novel markers of positive experiential state. The tools to measure these new biomarkers will be developed and further validated in field conditions.


Project goals:
  • Develop novel methods to measure indicators of positive experience
  • Validate indicators of positive experience

This project will require the applicant to:

  • Work with sheep for an extended period
  • Performed simple surgery and sample collection (after training)
  • Work in different laboratories
  • Interact with collaborators across Australia
  • Plan and organise experiments

Suggested readings


Research team leader: Dr Dominique Blache

I am a neuroscientist with a strong interested in the welfare of production animals. I take an integrative approach to animal welfare using my expertise in neuroscience, behaviour and endocrinology to study stress, metabolism, and reproduction. I am in the school of Agriculture and Environment at UWA.


Funding and Collaborations


  • Meat and livestock Australia grant (P.PSH.1232) 2020-2023

External Collaborators

    • The University of Queensland
    • New collaborators are welcome, please contact the research team leader


    • General assistance with animal trial and data collection



How to Apply 

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project:
    • Background in Agriculture, Animal Science
    • Capable and willing to work with sheep
    • Capable and willing to travel and spend time in the field
    • Knowledge of biotechnology is desirable.
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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