Undergraduate Researchers

Many undergraduate students get involved with the program as researchers, work-study students, or volunteers. Here are some recent examples:

Courtney Boyd (May-August 2018): Courtney is an undergraduate student in the Applied Animal Biology Honours program. She has been working with the lab animal welfare department under the sponsorship of an NSERC-URSA. Courtney is conducting a pilot study to refine lab rodent euthanasia. The current recommendation for euthanasia of rodents in research is exposure to isoflurane, an inhalant anaesthetic agent, followed by carbon dioxide; however, rats and mice still find this procedure aversive. The aim of this study is to determine if administration of an anxiolytic prior to exposure to a general anaesthetic agent will reduce the aversiveness of this euthanasia technique.

Angela Yu (May-August 2018): Angela is an NSERC-USRA recipient and is working as an undergraduate researcher in the Animal Welfare Program. She’s assisting graduate student Anna Ratuski in her investigation into reducing the maternal stress experienced by breeding rats and their pups. Angela is spending the second half of her USRA placement at the UBC Dairy Research Centre in Agassiz, on a dairy calf welfare research project.

Anna Ratuski (May – August 2017): Just graduated from Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S., Anna joined the Animal Welfare Program under the sponsorship of an NSERC-USRA.  Anna worked in our laboratory animal welfare research group on a study on pain and control in rats.

Brent Ludwig (May – August 2017):  Brent, a student form UBC’s Faculty of Science, was awarded an NSERC-USRA to work on the project “Are pain induced cognitive biases after dehorning controllable using appropriate strategy?”

Emilie McConnachie Emilie held multiple undergraduate research awards, including two NSERC-USRAs and a MITACS Globalink grant.

NSERC-USRA (May – August 2016 and September-December 2018): Emilie designed and conducted an experiment investigating dairy cow motivation for access to a mechanical brush at the UBC Dairy Research and Education Centre. Emilie collaborated with a visiting researcher on a project reviewing applications of genetic modification that could improve agricultural animal welfare, ethically evaluating these applications, and proposing an ethical path forward. Emilie also worked on another study investigating American public attitudes towards genetically modifying agricultural animals for improved welfare.

MITACS Globalink Grant (May-August 2017)

Emilie collaborated with colleagues at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianopolis, Brazil on a project investigating American public attitudes towards genetically modifying agricultural animals for improved welfare. Specifically, Emilie was interested in public perceptions towards genetically modifying dairy cows to be hornless in an effort to reduce the need for dehorning, an invasive procedure that is often performed without adequate pain mitigation.

Melissa Jung (May – August 2016):  Melissa joined our dairy cattle welfare research group to work on the project “Relationship to disease of social status around calving in dairy cows”.  Based at the UBC Dairy Centre, the aim of this study was to describe the individual variation in dairy calves. Calves were assessed for specific personality traits including activity, fearfulness and sociability. Consistencies in internal variability were assessed by repeatedly exposing the calves to challenging situations. The work provided a better understanding of the different aspects of individual variation, resulting in an improved ability to explore and further predict how individuals will react to situations that may compromise their welfare.  

Mari Kondoh (January – April 2015): Mari was a successful NSERC-USRA applicant. She worked with post-doctoral researcher Dr Becca Franks on the research project “How cognitively challenging feeding regimes affect fish welfare”.    

Samantha Jung (January – April 2015): Samantha was a student in the Applied Animal Biology major. Her research work with Animal Welfare was funded through an NSERC-USRA. Samantha worked on a study looking at the effectiveness of FPT testing and the benchmarking process in motivating engagement on calf issues leading to effective changes on farms. This project involved twenty dairy farms in BC’s Fraser Valley, recruited in collaboration with a local veterinary clinic.

Betsy Robertson (Sept- Dec 2014): Betsy joined us as a volunteer in September 2013 and assisted with Leigh Gaffney’s MSc project. Betsy worked as a student researcher funded by an NSERC-USRA and completed her undergraduate thesis. She assisted in Coho Salmon stress and aversion associated with five different chemical euthanasia agents, and investigated behavioural lateralization in Zebrafish with the goal of enhancing our knowledge of fish welfare.

Katelyn Mills (Sept- Dec 2014): Katelyn joined the program to complete a pilot study determining measures to test the efficacy of a contraceptive implant; specifically a chemical sterilization implant used by a Vancouver Island wildlife rehabilitation centre in non-native gray squirrels.

Alan Makarewicz (May-Aug 2013): Alan ran an experiment to study the effects of respiratory and enteric illnesses on cognitive performance in dairy calves. The study also examined the impact of social versus individual housing on the prevalence of these illnesses.

Heather Neave (2011 – 2012;  co-op work term): Heather first joined the program as a co-op student from UVic and worked on a project involving the assessment of emotional states in dairy calves when they are subjected to acute and chronic stress such as dehorning and social separation.

Leigh Gaffney (2011 – 2012; undergraduate thesis): Leigh completed an undergraduate thesis on humane methods of euthanasia for zebrafish; specifically, she used an approach-avoidance test to compare the effects of the chemical anaesthetics MS-222 and Clove Oil on zebrafish behaviour.

Geoff Nemeth (2011 – 2012; undergraduate thesis): Geoff is completing an undergraduate thesis on humane methods of euthanasia for laboratory rats; specifically, he compared rat aversion to the inhalant anaesthetics isoflurane and sevoflurane using an aversion-avoidance method.

Devina Wong (2010 – 2011; co-op work term & undergraduate thesis): Devina first joined the program as a co-op student. She worked on a project assessing humane euthanasia methods for laboratory rats; specifically, she came up with a novel method of assessing the degree of aversion to isoflurane and carbon dioxide.

Carly Moody (2009 – 2011; work-study & undergraduate thesis): Carly first got involved with the program as a work-study student working in the area of laboratory mouse euthanasia. She also completed her second undergraduate thesis on refining isoflurane and carbon dioxide euthanasia in laboratory rats.

Christina Tse (2009 – 2011; volunteer & undergraduate thesis): Christina joined us in 2009 to work with PhD student Kristen Walker and help assess wound-healing in hot-iron branded sea lions. Her work resulted in the creation of a wound-healing scale to use after burn procedures and was presented at two local research conferences.

Julie Wittrock (2008 – 2010; undergraduate thesis): Julie used data collected from 2 trials to determine the effect of metritis, an infectious disease in the uterus, on the long-term milk production of dairy cows. Her work has resulted in a short communication in the Journal of Dairy Science.

Erin Ryan (2008 – 2009; undergraduate thesis): Erin ran an experiment to assess the effect of milk allowance on calf play behaviour. Her study culminated in an undergraduate thesis.

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