Current Team

Vasseur’s lab (Falls 2017): Liliana Fadul Pacheco, Véronique Boyer, Maxime Leduc, Stephanie Nault-Belanger, Elsa Vasseur , Elyse Shelley,  Jessica St John, Giovanni Obinu, Tania Wolfe, Athena Zambelis, Sarah McPherson, Maria Antonieta Puerto, Maria Francesca Guiso, Daniel Warner.

Main Researcher
Elsa Vasseur

Credit: McGill University
Dr. Elsa Vasseur is the Chairholder of the NSERC/Novalait/Dairy Farmers of Canada/Valacta Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle. She received both her BSc and her first MSc in Rural Development from the Institut Supérieur d'Agriculture (ISA) in Lille, France as well as a second MSc in Animal Behaviour from AgroParisTech in 2005. She then came to Canada where she obtained her PhD in Animal Science from Université Laval in 2009, looking at on-farm assessment tools for the welfare of young dairy animals. After an NSERC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, where she worked with some of Canada’s leading researchers in dairy-cattle welfare at the University of British Columbia and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, she took up a research position at the University of Guelph’s Organic Dairy Research Centre on the Alfred Campus, before joining McGill in January 2016 as an Assistant Professor and Industrial Research Chairholder.

Vasseur’s academic background is multidisciplinary and areas of expertise are plural i) applied animal behaviour science (ethology) for a better understanding of animal needs, ii) the development of outcome measures of welfare for animals in confinement and the links in between those outcomes and the risk factors in housing and management, and iii) study of knowledge and technology transfer methods to encourage adoption of new practices by farmers. Her international interests and experience include a CIDA project in the DR Congo looking at reducing poverty through renewable charcoal-based agroforestry systems; and a most recent mission by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to develop a framework for the cooperation on livestock between Québec Gv’t and FAO in West Africa (Dakar, Sénégal November 2017).

Link :

Master student

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. 

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!

Maria Antonieta Puerto

 I am an animal scientist graduated from La Universidad de la Salle (Bogotá Colombia) and I have been around dairy cows for long as I can remember, I´ve worked for Colombian´s cattle associations on the quality certifications for production systems before dedication myself to technical improvements for dairy farms on dairy farms.  I base my experience on grazing systems for high production Holstein cows in Colombia, working the for dairy productive chain.

I´ve have joined the team august 2017. My research Msc focuses on longevity for herd profitability and cattle management. Looking forward on learning and contributing with my work to improve animal 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.

Stéphanie Bélanger-Naud

Diploma in Farm Management Technology (Macdonald College, 2014)
B.Sc. Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - major in Agricultural Economics, with specializations in Agribusiness and Professional Agrology (McGill University, 2017)
M.Sc. Animal Science (in progress)

I started working with Dr. Elsa Vasseur last winter to start a research project in the dairy goat production sector in a subject related to the comfort and well-being of dairy goat kids, as this is a subject that interests me very much, coming myself from a dairy goat farm. I have always been passionate for animals and have worked on many different dairy goat and cattle farms to build on experience, as well as being involved in many agriculture-related organisations outside of school. I have decided to pursue my undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics to get better knowledge in farm business management as I wish to take over the family farm eventually and I believe that economic theories complement technical practices very well. 

As part of my master’s thesis, I will be working on the weaning of dairy goat kids in collaboration with Dr. Dany Cinq-Mars from Laval University, and the experiment will be done in their animal science research center in Deschambault (CRSAD) in the fall of 2018. I will also develop a survey on rearing practices which will be sent out to all dairy goat producers in Quebec and Ontario to assess what is currently done in the sector, and will visit 15 farms to go further into certain questions. I am very excited to be working with Elsa and the whole team on and off campus for this project and am looking forward to these two coming years! 

PhD Student

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. 

Postdoctoral fellow

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.

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