M.SC. by thesis student
My interest in animal behaviour took hold at age 14 when I did my first ambitious (and clumsy) animal behaviour experiment involving all the dogs, cats, and horses I knew at the time. I continued to pursue my interest in animal behaviour at Michigan State University where I majored in animal science. During my final year of undergrad, I had the opportunity to work in MSU's Animal Behavior and Welfare Group as a student research assistant. During this time, I conducted two of my own research projects involving swine feeding behavior and pig-human interactions, the latter of which I presented at the 2016 ISAE Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I am now working as a MSc by Thesis student under Dr. Tina Widowski studying the behaviour and welfare of adolescent laying hens, known as pullets. My research focuses on how the stocking density (concentration of animals) in a cage impacts pullet growth, uniformity, behavior, and eventual egg production in commercial systems. Space is one of the most basic needs of an animal in production, and it is often addressed first in livestock welfare regulations. While there is a wealth of knowledge about the effects of stocking density on laying hens, most of this research does not address the first 25% of a laying hen's life as a pullet. The few studies that have looked at stocking density in pullets are 40-50 years old and largely irrelevant since pullets would have been housed at much higher densities at that time. My research will help to address this gap in the literature and bring it into the 21st century. My experiments tested stocking densities commonly used by farmers today as well as those suggested in breeder guidelines. The first part of my project took place at a commercial farm in Ontario in a barn with standard rearing cages, and the second took place at the Arkell Research Station where we housed pullets in a newer, enriched cage system, known as combi-cages. In both of these systems I am looking at production measures as well as behaviour and welfare of the pullets. I am excited to be able to do this brand new research and share what I learn with the industry.
My interest in animal behaviour does not end at school – I love to train my two rambunctious cats (yes, cats) to do all kinds of tricks. I also enjoy making a big mess doing art projects while attempting to keep the cats out of said mess.