Meet Visiting International Research Student Alison Sinnott

The UBC Animal Welfare Program hosts Visiting International Research Students through the VIRS program. This collaboration with researchers and students from across the globe fosters an environment of knowledge sharing which further promotes improving the welfare of animals across the world. Meet Alison, from Ireland, who came to the program having received the Steve Bishop Early Career Award from the British Society of Animal Science.

My name is Alison Sinnott and I am from Wexford, Ireland. I am currently a PhD candidate with Teagasc Moorepark in collaboration with Wageningen University and Research. Having received the Steve Bishop Early Career Award from the British Society of Animal Science, I joined UBC’s Animal Welfare Program as a Visiting International Research Student (VIRS) for three months.

From a young age, I was very fortunate to have been immersed in the agricultural sector. Having grown up on our beef and tillage farm, I pursued a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with a major in Animal Science in University College Dublin. The practical aspect of research in my undergraduate degree sparked my interest, and I decided to pursue this further. I was offered an opportunity to complete a PhD Walsh Scholarship with Teagasc. I now analyse calf management strategies and their effects on calf health, welfare, growth and labour.

I have followed and studied the work of the UBC Animal Welfare Program that they do at the UBC’s Dairy Research and Education Centre closely since the beginning of my PhD. As such, I aspired to UBC to meet, collaborate with and learn from world-class researchers that I revered so highly.  With thanks to professors Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk and Dan Weary, I joined the Animal Welfare Programme at the Dairy Research and Education Centre in Agassiz, British Columbia. Here I aided with the day-to-day work associated with on-going research projects relating to dairy cattle welfare. Some projects I was involved with included; i) investigating the effects of early social housing on a calf’s ability to compete for access to food when placed in a social setting, ii) examining the effect of pain due to hot-iron disbudding on calf cognition and iii) evaluating the effect of group size on subordinate dairy cow welfare.

Moving across the world to join a new research team as an international student took me out of my comfort zone entirely. However, before coming to UBC I could have never imagined how accepted and valued I would feel, both professionally and personally. The students, researchers and farm workers were among the most diverse, inclusive and nurturing people I have met.  Their attitudes, perspectives, inclusivity and work ethic are the backbone to the success of both the UBC Animal Welfare Programme and the dairy research farm. From conversations and collaborations inside the farm gate, to adventures outside of it, the people I have met as a VIR student have enriched my life and research beyond measure.