Professor Tessa Smith

Professor of Biological Sciences

As a behavioural endocrinologist I pair observational and hormonal data to answer pure and applied research questions pertaining to animals across the taxonomic groupings in the wild, semi-free ranging habitats, zoos, pet trade, research labs and farms.  By developing develop novel noninvasive techniques to quantify stress hormones my research has yielded practical recommendations to monitor and increase the welfare of animals. 

Overview

I have worked at the University of Chester as a senior lecturer in the Animal Behaviour Team since 2002. After spending three years conducting welfare and conservation work in Central and South America I completed six years of research in the USA (1994 – 2000; University of Omaha, Nebraska and the Conservation, Science and Education Dept, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, FL).  The two years following USA were spent as a faculty member in the School of Biology and Biochemistry, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK (2000 – 2002) before my position at the University of Chester.

Teaching

My experience enables me to deliver research lead teaching at an undergraduate and MSc level which addresses both pure and applied aspects of animal behaviour, welfare assessment and aspects of conservation.

Research

I run a productive endocrine laboratory in which we develop and validate enzyme-immunoassays to quantify levels of steroid hormones (cortisol, corticosterone, testosterone, oestrogen and PdG) excreted in a variety of media including urine, faeces, saliva, hair, plasma and the holding water of aquatic species.  In parallel with the endocrine work I develop behavioural bioassays, the data from which are combined with the hormone data.

My main focus is currently assessment of the social and physiological factors that modify hypothalamic pituitary adrenal function (i.e. ‘stress’).  I am however still involved in research assessing : (i) internal and extraneous regulation of olfactory communication and (ii) proximate mechanisms regulating reproductive function in social mammals.

In addition to internal collaborations with C Hosie developing welfare assessment tools for amphibians,  I collaborate externally with (1) University of Stirling (exploring the possibility of sexually dichromatic pelage colouration functioning as a sexually selected signal in the black-and gold howler Alouatta caraya), (2) Durrell Wildlife Trust (assessing the impact of husbandry routines on levels of excreted cortisol and reproductive hormone metabolites in pied tamarins), (3) Queens university Belfast (addressing the role of badgers in the spread of TB in the cattle population of Northern Ireland; investigating behavioural and physiological substrates of temperament in callitrichid primates and researching behavioural and social correlates of HPA activity in captive ring tailed lemurs), (4) University of Veracruz, investigating the link between maternal pregnancy hormones and masculinization of female genitalia in spider monkeys and factors regulating HPA function in captive spider monkeys).

Historically, I have secured funding for my research from UK research councils (NC3Rs and BBSRC), charities (Royal Society, UK; North of England Zoological Society, UK), academic organizations (Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, UK; Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, UK), universities (Queens University of Belfast, University of Chester) and private business (Disney, USA).   

Published work

Holmes AM, Emmans CJ, Jones N, Coleman R, Smith TE, Hosie CA (2016).  Impact of tank background on the welfare of the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis (Daudin). Applied Animal Behaviour Science doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2016.09.005

Setchell JM, Smith T, Knapp LA. 2015. Androgens in a female primate: relationships with reproductive status, age, dominance rank, fetal sex and secondary sexual color.' Physiology and Behavior, 147:245-254.

George SC, Smith TE, Mac Cana PS, Coleman R, Montgomery WI.  2014.  Physiological stress in the Eurasian badger (Meles meles): effects of host, disease and environment.  General and Comparative Endocrinology, 200: 54-60.

Young T, Creighton E, Smith TE, Hosie C. 2012. A novel scale of behavioural indicators of stress for use with domestic horses. App. Anim. Behav. Sci.  140:33-43..

SetchellJM, SmithTE, WickingsJ, Knapp LA.  2010. Stress, social behaviour, and secondary sexual traits in a male primate. Hormones and Behavior. 58: 720-728.

SetchellJM, SmithTE, WickingsJ, Knapp LA.  2008. Factors affecting fecal glucocorticoid levels in semi-free ranging female mandrills.  American Journal of Primatology, 70:1023-1032.

SetchellJM, SmithTE, WickingsJ, Knapp LA. 2008. Social correlates of testosterone and ornamentation in male mandrills Hormones and Behavior, 54:365-372.

Smith TE.  2006. Individual olfactory signatures in common marmosets, Callithrix jacchus.  American Journal of Primatology, 68:585-604.

Schaffner CM, Smith TE.  2005.  Familiarity may buffer the adverse effects of relocation in marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii): Preliminary evidence.  Zoo Biology. 24:93-100.

Davis N, Schaffner CM, Smith TE.  2005.  Evidence that zoo visitors influence HPA activity in spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyii rufiventris)  Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 90: 131-141.

Smith TE, McCallister JM, GordonSJ, Whittikar M. 2004.  Quantitative data on training New World primates to urinate.  American Journal of Primatology 64:83-93.

Dunlop RA, Laming PR, Smith TE.  2004.  The Stress of Four Commercial Farming Practices, Feeding, Counting, Grading and Harvesting, in Farmed Rainbow Trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss.  Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 37:179-183.

McCallister JM., Smith TE, Elwood RW. 2004.  Validation of urinary cortisol as an indicator of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function in the bearded emperor tamarin (Saguinus imperator subgrisescens).   American Journal of Primatology, 63: 17-23.

Smith TE. 2004.  Zoo Research Guidelines: Monitoring Stress in Zoo Animals. The Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland, London.  ISSN 1479-5647.

Bassett L, Buchanan-Smith HM, McKinley J, Smith TE.  2003.  Effects of training on stress-related behavior of the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) in relation to coping with routine husbandry procedures.  Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 3: 221-234.

Savage A, Zirofsky DS, Shideler SE, Smith TE, Lasley BL . 2002.  Use of levonorgestrel as an effective means of contraception in the white-faced saki (Pithecia pithecia).  Zoo Biology 21:49-57.

Smith TE, Gordon SJ.  2002. Sex differences in olfactory communication in Saguinus labiatus.  International Journal of Primatology  23:429 – 441.

Smith TE, Abbott DH, Tomlinson AJ, Mlotkiewicz J. 2001.  Female Marmoset Monkeys (Callithrix jacchus) can be identified from the chemical composition of their scent marks. Chemical Senses, 26:449-458.

Smith TE, McGreer-Whitworth B, French JA.  1998.  Close Proximity of the Heterosexual Partner Reduces the Physiological and Behavioral Consequences of novel-cage housing in Black Tufted-ear Marmosets (Callithrix kuhli).  Hormones and Behavior, 34, 211-222.

Smith TE, Abbott DH.  1998.  Behavioral discrimination between circumgenital odor from peri-ovulatory dominant and anovulatory female common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus).  American Journal of Primatology 46: 265-284.

Smith TE, French JA.  1997.  Psychosocial stress and urinary cortisol excretion in marmoset monkeys (Callithrix kuhli).  Physiology and Behavior 62: 225-240.

Smith TE, French JA.  1997.  Social and reproductive condition modulates urinary cortisol excretion in black tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhli).  American Journal of Primatology 42: 253-268.

Smith TE,  Abbott DH, Tomlinson AJ, Mlotkiewicz JA.  1997.  Differential display of investigative behavior permits discrimination of scent signatures from familiar and unfamiliar socially dominant female marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus).   Journal of Chemical Ecology 23: 2523-2546.

Smith TE, Faulkes CG, Abbott DH.  1997.  Combined olfactory contact with the parent colony and direct contact with non-breeding animals does not maintain suppression of ovulation in female naked mole-rats, Heterocephalus glaber.  Hormones and Behavior 31: 277-288.

Smith TE, Schaffner CM, French JA.  1997.  Social and developmental influences on reproductive function in female Wied’s black tufted-ear marmosets, Callithrix kuhli.  Hormones and Behavior 31:159-168.

French JA, Brewer KJ, Schaffner CM, Schalley J, Hightower-Merritt DL, Smith TE, Bell SM.  1996.  Urinary steroid and gonadotropin excretion across the reproductive cycle in female  Wied’s black tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhli).  American Journal of Primatology 40: 231-246.