Meet visiting international student Zimbabwe Osorio Santos

Over the years, the UBC Animal Welfare Program has hosted many visiting international students. This collaboration with researchers and students from across the globe fosters an environment of knowledge sharing which further promotes the wellbeing of animals across the world.  We would like to introduce you to one of our current visiting students, Zimbabwe!

My name is Zimbabwe Osorio Santos, I’m Brazilian and have a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences. I’m currently doing my master’s degree in Agroecosystems in Brazil at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianopolis and I am conducting my research at the Dairy Education and Research Centre as a Visiting International Research Student. I have always believed that food systems should promote animal welfare, a key element of ethical and social sustainability. I conducted research during my undergrad on the perceptions of farmers, consumers, and producers regarding animal welfare in food systems. During the first year of my Masters, I was involved in a project that was a collaboration between my supervisor Dr Maria José Hötzel and Dr Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk from the Animal Welfare Program; this project led to my first publication in the journal Sustainability.

Progress in the animal welfare field must consider the points of view of different stakeholders in animal production, and despite my previous research experience in the social sciences working with various human stakeholders, I had yet to work with the animals themselves! I was interested to know the animals up close and understand their needs, so I contacted Professor Nina and decided to undertake a research internship at the Dairy Education and Research Centre. Together we applied (and were successful) in securing a fellowship through the Emerging Leaders of America Program (ELAP). During this internship, I have had the opportunity to assist in several studies on calf welfare, learning about the effects of routine farm practices on calf cognition, memory, and affective states.

I enjoyed the experience so much that when presented with the opportunity to take the lead on a research project that could be used for my master’s degree research in Brazil I jumped up and accepted it! So, since August 2021 I have been conducting my research project, under the supervision of my research committee Professors Marina von Keyserlingk and Dan Weary, post-doctoral fellow Dr Thomas Ede and my Brazilian supervisor Dr Maria José Hötzel. My research is assessing the important practical issue of reducing the pain that calves experience as a result of common farm practices like hot-iron disbudding. We know that people who experience pain as infants may be more sensitive to pain in the future, but this phenomenon is poorly studied in animals. My work is specifically addressing how early painful experiences in calves affect pain sensitivity later in life.

My time at UBC as an international student has been amazing. Before coming I’d read many papers by the Animal Welfare Program researchers, but being here in person now allows me to see all this scholarship in a ‘real life’ context. Since I arrived at the dairy centre, I have learned a lot about research methods in animal welfare, and I have had the opportunity to meet many other researchers from around the world. In the long term, I intend to continue my studies as a Ph.D. student in the hopes of combining my previous skills as a social scientist with my new skills as an animal welfare scientist to help address complex problems in animal welfare.