I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the sponsors, board, and committees of Targeting Excellence for your generosity and support. It is a tremendous honor to have been selected for this award. Your commitment to supporting academic excellence in animal agriculture is commendable, and I am proud to be associated with this organization. This scholarship will allow me to focus on my research and further my understanding of animal behavior and welfare in agricultural settings. In addition, this award serves as a source of encouragement and inspiration as I near the end of my studies. Thank you for supporting my academic pursuits, and for your continued support of students in this field. Your generous donations provide crucial support to the next generation of professionals who will advance the field and contribute to the betterment of animal welfare and food security. Once again, thank you.
As an animal welfare scientist and applied animal behaviorist, my interests are broad. I intend to work with a variety of species across a career in academia, including production animals. Currently, I am working on my PhD in Animal Science from the University of Minnesota, where I study organic pain remedies for disbudding and long-term effects of the procedure on dairy cattle. I have gained a passion for improving welfare on farms, and my future lab will include research with production animals. Having a background in psychology, I am especially interested in animal cognition and consciousness, and studying the intelligence of animals; but it is also a goal of mine to improve on-farm welfare assessments for species that are studied less often (such as beef cattle, sheep, and goats) and to discover practical ways to improve welfare without overly burdening the farmer. I currently mentor two undergraduate students in animal behavior research, and it has been a highly rewarding experience; I am excited about a career working closely with students who are as passionate about animals as I am.
Although I am mostly interested in conducting research, I also look forward to teaching students to think critically about animal welfare. My current department has limited options for educating graduate students about animal welfare, and many of my peers who do not specifically study welfare want nothing to do with the field due to its unfair association with the “animal rights” movement. In fact, one colleague who recently began research into lameness – one of the major welfare concerns in the dairy industry – insisted that he was not doing animal welfare research, simply because he objected to the label. Another career goal, therefore, is to fight the negative misconception of animal welfare science in the industry. As a future professor, I want my students to understand that animal welfare and animal rights are not the same, that animal welfare science is not about criticizing or villainizing farmers but rather about improving conditions for both animals and their human caretakers, and that everyone who works with animals should care about welfare. A high standard of welfare often benefits productivity; therefore, educating future professionals about welfare can only benefit the industry. Additionally, many of my peers in my Masters cohort entered the program with strong views against livestock production, and left the program with a more nuanced perspective. I want my future classroom to be a place where people from different backgrounds and with varying perspectives can find common ground and work together towards improving the lives of animals.
Although my interests are not limited to food animal production, I will still be involved with the industry. Whether through research that provides new ways to improve farm animal welfare, or by educating future industry professionals about animal welfare science, it is a career goal of mine to continue to push food animal production to improve both for the animals and for the people who care for them.