Position/Title: M.Sc. by thesis
Office: ANNU 032
BScH. in Animal Biology; minor Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences (University of Guelph, 2020)
I am currently an MSc-Thesis student studying Companion Animal Nutrition under the supervision of Dr. Anna Kate Shoveller. Initially considering a career in veterinary medicine, I took Dr. Shoveller’s Pet Nutrition course in my undergrad. While taking her class, the importance of nutrition on the health of companion animals was emphasized, and I realized there were more ways to improve the lives of animals than just through medicine. I decided to pursue a minor in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences, taking Wildlife Nutrition, Poultry Nutrition, and Swine Nutrition courses, which confirmed that I was passionate about the relationship nutrients have in improving the health of individuals. I began to volunteer in Dr. Shoveller’s laboratory, assisting in sled-dog nutrition research, which excited me about research in pet nutrition. I knew for sure I wanted to pursue a master’s in the field of Companion Animal Nutrition.
For my thesis project, I am investigating the minimum phenylalanine requirement of cats and the influence of phenylalanine on feline gastric emptying rates. Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, meaning it is crucial in the diet for cats’ proper health and physiological function. Phenylalanine is needed to synthesize proteins, catecholamines, and melanin; it is also an essential precursor of the amino acid tyrosine, necessary for adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine production. Recent research suggests an influence of phenylalanine on gastric hormones, enhancing the importance of phenylalanine to animal physiology. However, a minimum phenylalanine requirement for cats has not been determined, leaving pet food producers to formulate diets to meet the estimation for adequate intake, resulting in the potential to oversupply in the diets and create nutrient wastage problems. For these reasons, working closely with Ph.D. Candidate Júlia Guazzelli Pezzali, my first study evaluated the phenylalanine requirements of cats through indicator amino acid oxidation techniques. For my second study, using gastric emptying breath testing, we assessed the potential role phenylalanine has on stimulating cholecystokinin, a satiety hormone thought to influence gastric emptying rates, as a possible method for the prevention of feline obesity. The NSERC discovery grants program funded these studies, and the results of these trials aim to help pet food formulators accurately supply phenylalanine in cats’ diets to ensure the overall health and wellbeing of cats, while also investigating the importance of phenylalanine to feline gastric physiology.
I also worked closely with colleagues Lindsey Rummell and Pawan Singh to complete their thesis projects in canine nutrition. In the future, I would love to pursue a career in either the pet food industry or zoo nutrition to continue to maximize animal health. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding and genuinely just being outside! I also love discovering new music, travelling, and I have recently been interested in exploring photography!