Position/Title: M.Sc. (Thesis) Student
Office: ANNU 206
I completed my Bachelor of Science (Honours) in December 2013 in animal biology.
After graduation I pursued a variety of work experiences to explore my interests and strengthen my skills. While working, I attended the Conestoga College photography program to develop my love of photography into a part-time profession. I also continued to pursue my passion for working with animals at two different veterinary clinics, which focused on small animal and performance horse medicine. My time spent at these clinics, as well as past animal care experiences, reinforced my decision to return to the University of Guelph to gain a more in depth understanding of animal health.
In the fall of 2017, I began a MSc with Dr. Neil Karrow to study livestock health in the context of climate change.
Climate change is causing increased heat waves, which is predicted to worsen. Negative impacts of this heat stress include reduced milk and carcass quality, production, increased disease, and fatalities. Animals release a hormone called cortisol when they are stressed. Cortisol helps to regulate different systems in the body to restore homeostasis. The amount of cortisol produced after a stress challenge varies between individuals. An animal is either a high, average, or low cortisol responder. My research will assess whether this stress response phenotype is associated with heat stress resilience in sheep. We will do this by heat stressing blood cells collected from our different stress responders by incubating them at 42 degrees. Characteristics of heat resistance can then be measured. We will validate these findings in the same sheep next summer by monitoring physiological and behavioural characteristics of heat stress. Importantly, this cortisol response to stress shows moderate to high heritability, making it a candidate phenotype for breeding programs aimed at developing robust flocks and herds in a changing climate.
This research will also be explored in other livestock species, like dairy cattle.
Outside of my studies I enjoy playing soccer and frisbee, photography, and helping to manage my family’s farm and environmental restoration project!