Becca Franks received a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow Research Prize in 2016. The Killam PDF Prizes are awarded to full-time postdoctoral fellows in recognition of their outstanding research and scholarly contributions. Franks began her postdoctoral fellowship in the UBC Animal Welfare Program in 2014 under the supervision of Professor Daniel Weary. In addition to receiving the Killam PDF Research Prize, Franks is also a recipient of the Killam Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.
Can you describe your research?
I’m interested in fundamental patterns of motivation and well-being across species. Beyond the drive to acquire food, water, and shelter, species across the animal kingdom show the desire to have control over and learn about their world. I am currently working to determine whether fish, like mammals and birds, are driven to use their sophisticated cognitive skills—e.g. learning and problem-solving—and whether engaging in such activities might improve their well-being and social relationships.
Why did you decide to pursue postgraduate work at UBC?
UBC is home to the world-famous Animal Welfare Program, led by three exceptional professors: Dan Weary, Nina von Keyserlingk, and David Fraser. They have each made unique and lasting contributions to the field, but beyond this, they are ideal mentors, providing unwavering support and expert guidance to their students. I was also attracted to the beautiful UBC campus and its international reputation for being a place of outstanding scholarship and research.
What do you hope to accomplish with your current work?
I hope to promote our understanding and appreciation of fish and the fascinating lives that they lead. I think that by carefully researching the behavioral and social dynamics of fish held in semi-natural environments, we can gain insights into a vastly different way of being an animal on this planet. At the same time, we can also uncover fundamental similarities that exist across species. For example, until now, we had relatively little information about the cognitive sophistication and complex lives of fish, which, through scientific study, we now know to be comparable to that of land animals. I hope that my research will contribute to this growing body of literature and thereby enrich our appreciation for all animal life.
What has winning a Killam award meant to you?
Winning the Killam award is a great honor. The Killam name is synonymous with exceptional scholarship and research for the greater good. It has validated the importance of my scientific approach. I’m passionate about the work that I do and hope that it contributes to our ability to maximize our relationship with other animals while also minimizing human-animal conflicts.