Current Team

From left to right.
Back row: Véronique Boyer, Tania Wolfe
Middle row: Brittany Talarico, Dr. Daniel Warner, Dr. Elsa Vasseur, Erika Edwards, Jessica St John, Sarah McPherson, Athena Zambelis, Elyse Perrault
Front row: Santiago Palacio, Dr. Liliana Fadul
Photo by: Yangjing Pu

Athena Zambelis
Athena joined our lab as a research assistant in July 2017 and will be with us until Dec. 2017.

B.Sc. Biology, with a minor in Psychology (McMaster University)
M.Sc. Animal Biosciences, specializing in animal behaviour and welfare (University of Guelph)

I have always been interested in the biological sciences, but only later focused my attention on animals during my Master’s project. My research interests are centered in investigating factors that promote dairy cattle health and welfare. While my background has been primarily in free-stall systems, I am excited for this opportunity to gain experience and familiarity with tie-stalls. I will be assisting in data collection related to quality of rising and lying behaviour of dairy cattle in tie-stall systems of varying dimensions to assess comfort. 

Erika Edwards
Erika Joined our team on June 2017 and will be working with us until Aug. 2017 as a visiting collaborative researcher as part of her Master's degree.

Currently, I am a Master’s student at University of Tennessee, but I am working as a graduate research trainee for the summer in Dr. Vasseur’s lab. Here, I am focusing on how tie-stall width affects cow’s ease of movement and overall welfare. This is a great opportunity for me to gain experience with cows housed in a tie-stall system and better understand how they are managed.  

I grew up raising and showing beef cattle in Iowa. During my undergraduate degree, I began working with dairy cattle and became interested in calving behaviours and the management of cows at calving. A cow’s behaviour can tell us a lot about her nutrition, reproductive status, health, environment, and other factors. This allows us to manage her in a way that promotes good welfare and productivity, longevity within the herd, and profitability.

Brittany Talarico
Brittany joined our team on May 2017 and will be working with us throughout the summer until she resumes her studies on Aug. 2017.

B.Sc. Environmental Science (In Progress)

With big enthusiasm and gratefulness am I approaching this opportunity to work with Dr. Elsa Vasseur and her dedicated team of students. I am assisting in collecting the data in cow movement within their tie-stalls with manual tracking.

I am eager to learn about cows, their behaviours, and how to improve their quality of life in tie-stalls. Animal welfare is extremely important to me and my goal to help animals in any way I can. In the future, I aim to work in conservation of natural habitats, mapping migration for wildlife and analyzing the changes and consequences.

Elyse Perrault
Elyse started with us on May 2017 and will be working in our lab throughout the summer until she resumes her studies on Aug. 2017.

B.Sc. Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, with a specialization in Life Sciences (McGill University, Present).

I am currently an undergraduate student completing my bachelor’s at McGill’s MacDonald campus.  My passion for animals and for teaching others is why my ultimate goal is to attend Veterinary school in the near future to earn my DVM and have the ability to teach animal owners about how to keep their furry friends happy and to help cure those in need of care. After taking my first animal welfare course during my first year of university, I became absolutely fascinated with animal behaviour and how it relates to any given animal’s well-being. It amazed me how unaware I was that each animal has its own unique way of expressing various feelings through their behaviour, such as happiness, frustration or discomfort. Since the feelings and emotions of animals cannot be observed directly, analyzing an animal’s actions or biological functioning may at first seem like a daunting task. However, I find it extremely rewarding to be able to take note of particular indicators of potentially poor welfare in order to have the ability to make changes in the animal’s environment that will ultimately lead to an improvement in their quality of life. 

Up until this point my main focus has been on small animals such as cats and dogs, however, as a Research Assistant for this project I am looking very forward to learning more about dairy cows and the specific measures that may be used to assess their well being in order to find solutions to better their living situation. By using the knowledge gained through this experience I hope to be able to one day apply it to help animals in developing countries and educate the people of these countries to carry on from there.

Quote to live by: Don’t cry over spilled milk, turn the udder cheek and moooooooo-ve on!

Sarah McPherson
Sarah joined our lab as a research assistant in May 2017 and will start her M.Sc. with us in September. 

Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science, with a Concentration in Biology and a Minor in Psychology (McMaster University) 

I am currently a research assistant in the lab and I am trying to validate the use of pressure mats as a method of determining how often cows come into contact with the confines of their stalls. 
I grew up on a small tie-stall dairy farm in Midwestern Ontario and have loved all sorts of animals for as long as I can remember. Although my undergraduate schooling did not involve agriculture in any way, I have found my way back to working with one of my favourite animals. I have always loved working with cows, and through my involvement here I hope to contribute to further improving their health and welfare.  

Véronique Boyer
Véronique fisrt started with us as a research assistant on May 2016 and soon after started her MSc. on Aug. 2016.

B.Sc. Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, with specializations in Animal Science and Professional Agrology.

I am doing my Master’s degree here in the lab. My research projects will aim to evaluate the impact of chain length and stall width (as tie-stall configuration components) on cow ease of movement.

I have been around cows ever since I was little! From day to day contact with them, and also from the very special link I developed with some of the heifers I have showed around in local fairs, I have grown fond of these big animals. I wish to help improve or maintain their welfare, and am also very curious about their behaviour, which is what brought me where I am today!

Manon Demaret 
Manon joined us all the way from France on Jan. 2017 as part of her MSc. degree.

Bachelor in Agricultural, Food-Processing and Environment (Institut Supérieur ISA, Lille, France). Currently I am following my Master in Livestock Production (Institut Supérieur ISA, Lille, France). 

I am here at McGill University working at the lab as part of my Master's training.  I am  in charge of the development and implementation of a protocol to assess the performance of a management information  tool developed here at the lab to monitor longevity and profitability of dairy cattle. 

I have a passion for horses and western riding, for animal welfare and genetics. I love learning and see how animal welfare can improve animal productions. It’s important to develop animal welfare to take care of our animals, to show its importance to farmers and to develop consumers awareness. I feel committed to  wildlife protection and preservation of endangered species, in the future I expect to work on these fields. I  also would love to travel all around the world to discover new cultures and landscapes.

Daniel Warner
Daniel joined our team in March 2017 as a postdoctoral fellow.

Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences (Free University of Bolzano, Italy), Master of Science in Animal Sciences (Wageningen University, the Netherlands), PhD in Animal Sciences (Wageningen University, the Netherlands), Postdoctoral fellow in Animal Sciences (Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, Québec, Canada)

I am currently working on a big data project in collaboration with Valacta on benchmarking the animal welfare risk of dairy herds based on routinely collected herd data. 

I have always had a passion for the natural sciences and started my research career in studying plants and forages to gradually move to animals. I have developed a special interest in cattle nutrition and management with a focus on the technological progress and the data science. Currently, in the era of big data, I would like to contribute in developing procedures and decision tools, and provide strategic solutions for welfare, health and environmental concerns in modern animal production systems. 

Liliana Fadul
Liliana joined our team on Jan. 2017 to work as a postdoctoral fellow.

Bachelor in Animal Science (Universidad de la Salle, Bogotá, Colombia), Master in Agricultural Science and Natural Resources (Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Toluca, México), PhD in Animal Science (Université Laval, Quebec, Canada)

Currently I am working as a postdoctoral fellow analyzing data from automatic milking systems. 

I am an animal scientist that love data analysis, dairy nutrition and management. Now with all the new technology available that generates enormous amount of data, there is a huge opportunity to extend our knowledge and to provide management tools to the producers on animal behavior and welfare.

Jessica St John 
Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences (University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada)

I am currently completing my MSc in animal science. The main focus of my study is to determine the ideal tie-rail height and forward position to improve dairy cow welfare and ease of movement within tie-stall barns. 

I am interested in learning about and improving animal health and welfare.

Tania Wolfe

Elise Shepley
BSc Animal Science (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA), MSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare (University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada), PhD Animal Science (1 year down, hopefully no more than 3 to go!)(McGill University, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Canada).

I started my PhD in January 2016 which will focus on the effects/benefits of exercise on dairy cow welfare with a special focus on the effects of exercise on locomotion/ease of movement and lameness. I have since started my first study looking at the effects of loose-pen vs. tie-stall housing during the 8-week dry period on dairy cow ease of movement. My future studies for my PhD will take similar looks at the amount and quality of exercise different types of housing provides dairy cows and the benefits gained from each with the next planned study focusing on the effects of pasture access on activity and behaviour in dairy cows.

I have loved and wanted to work with animals for a long as I can remember (barring a brief period of time in 2nd grade when I wanted to be an architect)!). I fell into research in animal behaviour and welfare because I saw it as a means to seek out solutions to problems prevalence in the animal production industries and to be able to apply these solutions on a scale that could benefit large numbers of animals and the producers that care for them.

Santiago Palacio 
Santiago joined our team in Jan. 2014 as a PhD. student after completing his MSc. with us at Guelph.

Bachelors Honours with double major in biology and psychology (University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada), Masters in Animal Science (University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada), PhD in Animal Science (McGill University, Montreal, QC,Canada).

I am currently a PhD candidate researching how different knowledge transfer technologies affect the attitudes and behavioural changes in dairy producers, and in turn affect their animals in regards to improving dairy cow welfare in tie-stalls.

I have always liked and been interested in animals and human and animal behaviour. From this, grew the interest in understanding and contributing to the improvement of the health and welfare of animals in the agricultural sector. As I learned more about the field I saw that although there is plenty of research into improving the health and welfare of the animals, there is a gap on how to effectively transfer this information to producers so that the science is actively used when applicable. 

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