My concern for animals and the environment has always been a part of who I am. With the goal of becoming a zoologist, I studied Biology and Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, the city where I grew up. I first heard of Animal Welfare Science as a discipline sometime near the end of my B.Sc., and knew instantly that this was what I wanted to do. Soon after graduation, I moved to Vancouver to pursue my M.Sc. in the welfare of laboratory animals at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The focus of my early research was to find a humane method of euthanasia for laboratory rats, given the reality that euthanasia is the most common laboratory procedure, and yet the method most frequently used at the time was aversive to rats. During this time, I developed an interest in more general issues affecting the welfare of rats used in research. For my PhD, I studied the life experiences of rats housed in standard laboratory conditions compared to rats living in semi-naturalistic environments. Some of this work was awarded the 2016 NC3Rs International 3Rs prize, which enabled me to return to the UBC Animal Welfare Program as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in June 2017. My goal is to deepen our understanding of what is important to rats and how best to provide them with a good life. My current research focuses on burrowing behaviour and the benefits of giving standard-housed laboratory rats daily access to a playpen where they can engage in important natural behaviours.
I was born and raised in rural Iowa. In 2006, I earned my B.S. in Agricultural Science and Environmental Ethics from The Evergreen State College where I also coordinated the student-run lambing operation. After graduating, worked for several years as Program Director for the Washington State Dairy Federation where I worked with legislators, regulatory agencies, scientists and NGOs on agricultural policy in the areas of environmental stewardship, labor/immigration, food safety and animal welfare. I also directed the Washington Dairy Industry Research and Education Program where I organized the first Washington Farm Animal Welfare Symposium.
I received my PhD with the UBC Animal Welfare Program in 2017 and I am now working as a Post-doctoral Fellow. My scholarly interests lie at the intersection of science and philosophy. I am especially interested in applying psychological theory and methods to study issues surrounding agricultural sustainability – particularly animal welfare. To date, my research has investigated the relationship between farm size and animal welfare indicators; the effect of transparency on public trust and perceptions of modern agriculture; attitudes towards painful procedures; how cosmetic surgeries (i.e. tail docking and ear cropping dogs) alter perceptions of both dogs and their owners; and attitudes towards biotechnologies aimed at improving animal welfare. My most recent project involves using experimental methods to explore folk concepts about animal welfare/ethics, as well as a study assessing public attitudes about tie stall housing dairy cattle.