Dr Alexandra Whittaker

Alexandra Whittaker
Senior Lecturer
School of Animal and Veterinary Science
Faculty of Sciences

Alexandra Whittaker is a veterinary scientist and physiologist who has a research focus on gastrointestinal inflammatory conditions and their effects on emotion and cognitive processing. She also has significant research expertise in applied animal behaviour. She is a member of the Digestive Health Research Group led by Prof. Gordon Howarth and also leads a small independent research group which focusses on developing and refining novel methods of animal behavioural assessment.

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Dr Alexandra Whittaker

Alexandra Whittaker is a veterinary scientist and physiologist who has a research focus on gastrointestinal inflammatory conditions and their effects on emotion and cognitive processing. She also has significant research expertise in applied animal behaviour. She is a member of the Digestive Health Research Group led by Prof. Gordon Howarth and also leads a small independent research group which focusses on developing and refining novel methods of animal behavioural assessment.

A link has recently been established within patients with general functional gut disorders and decreases in their cognition, with 70% of these patients experiencing psychological comorbidities. Dr Whittaker's research focusses on the effects of inflammatory processes in the gut on patient emotion and cognitive processing, and the neuroimmune mechanisms which contribute to this effect. This work is aimed at identifying ways in which gut-brain axis mechanisms can be targeted in gastrointestinal disease in order to prevent cognitive decline. One specific area where this will have application is in the prevention of 'chemobrain' ; a condition that affects cancer patients treated with chemotherapy agents, and cancer survivors many years after treatment cessation. Cognitive changes in chemobrain may manifest as impairment of patient’s learning and memory, reasoning and visuo-spatial skills amongst others. As a result activities of daily life become more challenging with patients’ ability to work and maintain relationships impacted. This profoundly affects quality of life.

Dr Whittaker also has an interest in animal cognition, affective state and animal welfare and conducts research investigating these concepts in an applied fashion. Specific areas of research include:

  • The neuroimmunological consequences of chemotherapy-induced mucositis in development of 'chemobrain'
  • Validation and refinement of novel behavioural assessment tools
  • Assessment of positive welfare outcomes
  • Pain assessment in laboratory animals and comparison of therapeutics
  • The legal status of animals- effects on attitudes towards them and their treatment
  • The use of online technologies in promoting student learning

Characteristic Histological Changes in the Chemotherapy-Damaged Gut
GFAP staining of astrocytes in the central nervous system.      Characteristic histological changes occurring in the gut 
The astrocytes are one type of cell that may be modified by      (ileum) as a result of chemotherapy treatment.
inflammatory activity in the gut.  Picture courtesy of House of
Mind:
http://houseofmind.tumblr.com/post/18779434067/list-
astrocyte-functions

 

 

 

 

Appointments

Date Position Institution name
2017 Senior Lecturer The University of Adelaide
2008 - 2016 Lecturer The University of Adelaide
2006 - 2008 Laboratory Manager Curtin University of Technology

Awards and Achievements

Date Type Title Institution Name Amount
2016 Research Award Edith Dornwell Medal for Early Career Research Excellence Faculty of Sciences, The University of Adelaide
2016 Award Certificate of Scientific Accomplishment as an Early Stage Investigator American Gastroenterological Association
2016 Achievement Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence The University of Adelaide
2015 Award Prize for greatest number of publications in research theme School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide
2014 Award Prize for greatest quality publication in research theme School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide
2014 Achievement Prize for greatest number of publications in research theme School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide

Education

Date Institution name Country Title
2017 Supreme Court of South Australia Australia Barrister and Solicitor
2016 - 2017 The University of Adelaide Australia Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP)
2012 - 2015 University of New England Australia LLB (Hons)
2011 - 2016 The University of Adelaide Australia PhD
2011 - 2012 The University of Adelaide Australia Graduate Certificate in Online Learning (GCOL)
2010 - 2012 Charles Sturt University Australia MBA
2002 University of Cambridge United Kingdom MA
1998 - 2001 University of Cambridge United Kingdom VetMB
1995 - 1998 University of Cambridge United Kingdom BA

Certifications

Date Title Institution name Country
2015 Diplomate of the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine (ECAWBM-AW) European College of Veterinary Surgeons
2011 Diploma in Laboratory Animal Science Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
2009 Diploma in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
2008 Membership in Animal Welfare Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists

Research Interests

Animal Behaviour, Animal Physiology _ Systems, Chemotherapy, Humane Animal Treatment, Law and Legal Studies

Journals

Year Citation
2017 Stillman, M. & Whittaker, A. L. (2017). The use and efficacy of analgesic agents in sheep utilised as models in biomedical research. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, -.
2017 Barker, T. H., Bobrovskaya, L., Howarth, G. S. & Whittaker, A. L. (2017). Female rats display fewer optimistic responses in a judgment bias test in the absence of a physiological stress response.. Physiol Behav, 173, 124-131.
10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.02.006
2017 Barker, T., George, R., Howarth, G. & Whittaker, A. (2017). Assessment of housing density, space allocation and social hierarchy of laboratory rats on behavioural measures of welfare. J. Homberg (Ed.). PLoS ONE, 12, 9, -.
10.1371/journal.pone.0185135
2016 Whittaker, A. L., Leach, M. C., Preston, F. L., Lymn, K. A. & Howarth, G. S. (2016). Effects of acute chemotherapy-induced mucositis on spontaneous behaviour and the grimace scale in laboratory rats.. Lab Anim, 50, 2, 108-118.
10.1177/0023677215595554
2016 Barker, T. H., Howarth, G. S. & Whittaker, A. L. (2016). The effects of metabolic cage housing and sex on cognitive bias expression in rats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 177, 70-76.
10.1016/j.applanim.2016.01.018
2016 Whittaker, A., Lymn, K. & Howarth, G. (2016). Effects of Metabolic Cage Housing on Rat Behavior and Performance in the Social Interaction Test. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 19, 4, 363-374.
10.1080/10888705.2016.1164048
2016 Whittaker, A. & Vine, M. (2016). The price of a four-legged friend: non-economic damage award in Australian pet litigation. Tort Law Review, 24, 2, 99-123.
2015 Whittaker, A. L., Lymn, K. A., Nicholson, A. & Howarth, G. S. (2015). The assessment of general well-being using spontaneous burrowing behaviour in a short-term model of chemotherapy-induced mucositis in the rat.. Lab Anim, 49, 1, 30-39.
10.1177/0023677214546913
2015 Francisco, C., Howarth, G. & Whittaker, A. (2015). Effects on animal wellbeing and sample quality of 2 techniques for collecting blood from the facial vein of mice. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animals, 54, 1, 76-80.
2015 Whittaker, A. (2015). Halal Certification:Food for thought? (Opinion piece). Australian Animal Protection Law Journal, 10, 37-38.
2015 Vaughan, L. M., Kloppers, M. P. & Whittaker, A. L. (2015). The influence of bilateral preputialectomy on aggressive behaviour, and incidence of aggression-related injury, in group-housed male Swiss mice. Animal Technology and Welfare, 14, 2, 77-84.
2015 Whittaker, A., Plush, K. J., Terry, R., Hughes, P. E., Kennaway, D. J. & Van Wettere, W. H. E. J. (2015). Effects of space allocation and parity on selected physiological and behavioural measures of well-being and reproductive performance in group-housed gestating sows. Livestock Science, 176, 161-165.
10.1016/j.livsci.2015.03.007
2014 Whittaker, A. (2014). Incorporation of a stand-alone elective course in animal law within animal and veterinary science curricula. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 41, 1, 55-59.
10.3138/jvme.0113-001R1
2014 Whittaker, A., Howarth, G. & Lymn, K. (2014). Evaluation of Facebook© to create an online learning community in an undergraduate animal science class. Educational Media International, 51, 2, 135-145.
10.1080/09523987.2014.924664
2014 Whittaker, A. (2014). Animal research regulation in Australia - does it pass the test of robustness?. Global Journal of Animal Law, 1, 1-14.
2014 Whittaker, A. & Howarth, G. (2014). Use of spontaneous behaviour measures to assess pain in laboratory rats and mice: how are we progressing?. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 151, 1-12.
10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.001
2014 Vaughan, L., Dawson, J., Porter, P. & Whittaker, A. (2014). Castration promotes welfare in group-housed male Swiss outbred mice maintained in educational institutions. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, 53, 1, 38-43.
2013 Whittaker, A. (2013). Animal law teaching in non-law disciplines: incorporation in animal and veterinary science curricula. J. Mancy (Ed.). Australian Animal Protection Law Journal, 9, 113-115.
2013 Whittaker, A. & Anderson, G. (2013). A policy at the University of Adelaide for student objections to the use of animals in teaching. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 40, 1, 52-57.
10.3138/jvme.0411.045R1
2012 Whittaker, A., Howarth, G. & Hickman, D. (2012). Effects of space allocation and housing density on measures of wellbeing in laboratory mice: a review. Laboratory Animals, 46, 1, 3-13.
10.1258/la.2011.011049
2012 Terry, R., Van Wettere, W., Whittaker, A., Herde, P. & Howarth, G. (2012). Using the noninvasive ¹³C-sucrose breath test to measure intestinal sucrase activity in swine. Comparative Medicine, 62, 6, 504-507.
2012 Whittaker, A., Van Wettere, W. & Hughes, P. (2012). Space requirements to optimize welfare and performance in group housed pigs: a review. American Journal of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, 7, 2, 48-54.
10.3844/ajavsp.2012.48.54
2012 Whittaker, A., Noonan, D. & Chew, F. (2012). Investigation of training and development options for research and teaching animal users: a case study. Animal Technology and Welfare, 11, 1, 21-21-29,33,36,39.

Conference Items

Year Citation
2017 George, R. P., Barker, T. H., Lymn, K., Howarth, G. S. & Whittaker, A. L. (2017). Cognitive bias as a measure of affective state in a rat model of chemotherapy-induced mucositis. Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Conference. South Australia.
2017 Barker, T. H., George, R. P., Howarth, G. S. & Whittaker, A. L. (2017). The Assessment of Housing Density and Social Hierarchy of Laboratory Rats on Behavioural Measures to Assess Welfare. 2017 Australian & New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching Conference, ‘Maintaining Social License in a Changing World’. Queenstown, New Zealand.
2017 George, R. P., Barker, T., Lymn, K., Howarth, G. & Whittaker, A. (2017). Is chemotherapy-induced mucositis associated with pessimistic behaviour as demonstrated by negative judgement biases in the rat?. Australian Society for Medical Research. South Australia.
2016 George, R., Barker, T., Howarth, G. & Whittaker, A. (2016). Mice do not exhibit pessimistic judgement biases in response to metabolic cage housing: reflection on housing type or cognitive bias methodologies.. Australian Society for Medical Research. Adelaide.
2016 Barker, T. H., Howarth, G. S. & Whittaker, A. L. (2016). Judgment Biases: Metabolic cage housing and sex effects. Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association. Auckland, New Zealand.
2016 Bajic, J. E., Whittaker, A. L., Bobrovskaya, L., Hutchinson, M. R. & Howarth, G. S. (2016). Intestinal mucositis induced by 5-Fluorouracil results in glial changes modified by analgesics via neuro-immune mechanisms. Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer. Adelaide.
2016 Whittaker, A. L., Bajic, J. E., Bobrovskaya, L., Hutchinson, M. R. & Howarth, G. S. (2016). Chemotherapy Induces Intestinal Inflammation and Central Changes Which Are Modified by Analgesics via Neuro-Immune Mechanisms. 57th Annual Meeting and Residents Fellow Conference of the Society-for-Surgery-of-the-Alimentary-Tract (SSAT) / 52nd Annual Meeting on Digestive Disease Week (DDW) / Meeting of the American-Gastroenterological-Association (AGA). San Diego, CA.
10.1016/S0016-5085(16)30301-8
2016 George, R., Barker, T., Howarth, G. & Whittaker, A. (2016). Mice do not exhibit pessimistic judgement biases in response to metabolic cage housing: reflection on housing type or cognitive bias methodologies.. Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Conference. Auckland.
2016 Barker, T., Howarth, G. & Whittaker, A. (2016). Correlation between cognitive bias and other measures of stress in rats. International Society for Applied Ethology. Edinburgh.
2016 Bajic, J., Whittaker, A., Bobrovskaya, L., Hutchinson, M. & Howarth, G. (2016). Intestinal mucositis induced by 5-Fluorouracil results in glial changes modified by analgesics via neuro-immune mechanisms. Australian Society for Medical Research. Adelaide.
2015 Whittaker, A., Leach, M. C., Preston, F. L., Lymn, K. A. & Howarth, G. S. (2015). The assessment of pain using behaviour and the rat grimace scale in a rat model of chemotherapy-induced mucositis.. Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Asociation. Adelaide.
2015 Whittaker, A., Preston, F., Lymn, K. & Howarth, G. (2015). Addressing the translational validity of animal models of chemotherapy-induced mucositis; the assessment of pain using behaviour and the rat grimace scale.. Australian Society for Medical Research (SA Chapter). Adelaide.
2015 (2015). Abstracts of the 2015 International MASCC/ISOO Symposium.
10.1007/s00520-015-2712-y
2015 Stillman, M. & Whittaker, A. L. (2015). Analgesia in the sheep as an animal model. Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Conference. Adelaide.
2015 Whittaker, A. (2015). Is there a nexus between animal welfare science and legal reform?. Animal Law Workshop. Monash University.
2015 Lymn, K. A., Howarth, G. S. & Whittaker, A. L. (2015). The use of different classes of analgesic in a rat model of chemotherapy-induced mucositis:A technician’s perspective. Australia and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Conference. Adelaide.
2015 Francisco, C. C., Howarth, G. S. & Whittaker, A. L. (2015). Effects on Animal Wellbeing and Sample Quality of Two Techniques for Collecting Blood from the Facial Vein of Mice.. Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association. Adelaide.
2015 Whittaker, A. & Franceschilli, T. (2015). An Instructor’s Reflections on the Use of a Video Assessment Tool for Group Project Work. HERGA. Adelaide.
2014 Mashtoub, S., Feo, B., Whittaker, A. L., Lymn, K. A., Martinez-Puig, D. & Howarth, G. S. (2014). Oral Nucleotides Partially Attenuate 5-Fluorouracil-Induced Mucositis in Rats. Poster Presentation P36.. Australian Society for Medical Research (SA Chapter). Adelaide.
2014 Mashtoub, S., Feo, B., Whittaker, A. L., Lymn, K. A., Martinez-Puig, D. & Howarth, G. S. (2014). Oral Nucleotides Partially Attenuate 5-Fluorouracil-Induced Mucositis in Rats.. Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer. Miami.
2014 Mashtoub, S., Feo, B., Whittaker, A., Lymn, K., Martinez-Puig, D. & Howarth, G. (2014). Oral nucleotides only minimally improve 5-fluorouracil-induced mucositis in rats. 2014 World Cancer Congress Abstracts. Broadbeach, Qld..
10.1111/jgh.12736_2
2014 Whittaker, A., Lymn, K. A., Nicholson, A. & Howarth, G. S. (2014). The Assessment of General
Wellbeing Using Spontaneous Burrowing Behaviour in a Short- Term Model of
Chemotherapy-induced Mucositis in the Rat.. Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association. Canberra.
2014 Vaughan, L. V., Kloppers, M. & Whittaker, A. L. (2014). Influence of preputialectomy on aggression and injury in group-housed male Swiss mice. Australia and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association. Canberra, Australia.
2014 Whittaker, A. (2014). Animal law teaching in non-law disciplines: incorporation in animal and veterinary science curricula. Animal Law Workshop. Goldcoast, Australia.
2013 Whittaker, A. (2013). Aggression and laboratory mouse welfare. Australia and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association. Perth, Australia.
2012 Whittaker, A. (2012). A review of the effects of space allocation and housing density on measures of wellbeing in laboratory mice. Australian and New Zealand Council for the care of animals in research and teaching (ANZCCART). Perth.
2011 Whittaker, A. (2011). Regulation of Laboratory Animal Care and Use: An International Perspective.
2010 Whittaker, A., Noonan, D. & Chew, F. (2010). Investigation of training and development options for research and teaching animal users. Australia and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association.
2010 Whittaker, A. (2010). Researcher animal ethics training at the University of Adelaide. Australian College of Veterinary Scientists Science Week.
2009 Whittaker, A. (2009). Teaching Animal Welfare in an Integrated Veterinary Curriculum. Australian College of Veterinary Scientists Science Week. Goldcoast, Australia.
2008 Whittaker, A. (2008). Investigating alternatives to the use of animals in veterinary undergraduate teaching. Australia and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association. Sydney.

Theses

Year Citation
2015 Whittaker, A.; (2015); The Price of a Four-Legged Friend: Non-economic damage award in pet litigation;
Date Title Investigators Funding Body Amount
2017

Neuroimmunological Consequences of Chemotherapy-induced Mucositis and Opioid Palliation in the Development of ‘Chemobrain’

Whittaker AL, Howarth GS, George RP School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Seed Grant, The University of Adelaide $3000
2015 The utility of cognitive bias testing to assess therapeutic improvements in emotional state in a rat model of chemotherapy-induced mucositis Whittaker AL, Barker T, Howarth GS School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Seed Grant, The University of Adelaide $4000
2015 Award for attendance at Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer Conference 2015.
 
Whittaker AL SAHMRI $1455
2015 Travel Grant Whittaker AL Gender Equity and Diversity Committee, The University of Adelaide $2,000
2015 Early Career Researcher Travel Grant Whittaker AL Faculty of Sciences, The University of Adelaide $2,000
2015 Travel Award for attendance at Animal Law Workshop Whittaker AL Voiceless $200
2015 Travel Grant Whittaker AL School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide $2000
2012 Funding for night vision animal surveillance cameras Howarth G, Stott P, Whittaker AL Faculty of Sciences, University of Adelaide, Minor Equipment Round $8,700 $8700
2011-2012 Novel Strategies to enhance creep attractiveness and reduce piglet mortality
 
Whittaker AL, Van Wettere W, Kirkwood, R. Pork CRC innovation grant $15,665
2010

Evaluation of space requirements for breeding pigs at different parities

Whittaker AL

AVA Animal Welfare Trust

$9,000
2009-2010 Evaluation of space requirements for breeding pigs at different parities Van Wettere W, Hughes P, Whittaker AL Australian Pork Limited (APL) $11,820

 

Major Teaching Responsibilities

The majority of my teaching is in the Bachelor of Science (Animal Science) program into:

ANIMLSC 3250RW - Animals and the Law (course founder and coordinator 2012-)

ANIMLSC 3100RW - Laboratory Animal Science

Minor Teaching Responsibilities

I also have teaching roles in:

ANIMLSC 3016RW - Animal Health

VET SC 2500RW - Professional Skills in Veterinary Bioscience II

VET SC 3500RW - Professional Skills in Veterinary Bioscience III (Course coordinator 2013-14)

VET SC 3516RW - Veterinary Epidemiology, Biosecurity, & Evidence-Based Med III

VET SC 7223RW - Veterinary Public Health

VET SC 7005RW - Clinical Research Project

 

PhD Students

Date Thesis Title Student Name Supervisor Status
2016- The role of opioids in modulating inflammation in chemotherapy-induced mucositis Rebecca George Co-supervisor (with Prof. Howarth)
2015- Cognitive bias as a measure of rodent emotional state and welfare Timothy Barker Co-supervisor (with Prof. Howarth)

Honours Students 

Date Thesis Title Student Name Supervisor Status
2017 The role of empathy in influencing cognitive biasing Peta Groves Principal Supervisor
2016 Providing peri-parturient sows with alternative nesting material to improve welfare Alice Rainsford Co-supervisor (with Drs Van Wettere and Plush)
2015 The effects of metabolic cage housing on cognitive bias expression in mice Rebecca George Principal Supervisor
2014 The effects of metabolic cage housing and sex on cognitive bias expression in rats Timothy Barker Principal Supervisor

 

Memberships

Date Role Membership Country
2017 - ongoing Member Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society
2016 - ongoing Member American Society for Nutrition
2016 - ongoing Member The Law Society of South Australia
2013 - ongoing Member International Society for Applied Ethology

Editorial Boards

Date Role Editorial Board Name Country
2014 - ongoing Board Member Australian Animal Protection Law Journal Australia
Position
Senior Lecturer
Phone
83137868
Fax
8313 7956
Campus
Roseworthy
Building
Corridor Block
Room Number
G 04
Org Unit
School of Animal and Veterinary Science

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