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Kristen Panetta

Position/Title: M.Sc. (coursework) Candidate

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BSc. (Hons) Biology, Queen's University, 2019

Certificate in Law, Queen's University, 2020


About Me

As a graduate of Queen’s University, I received both a BSc. (Hons) in 2019 and a Certificate in Law in 2020. While completing my undergraduate degree, I was involved in a student-led organization partnered with the Kingston Humane Society. As a part of this agency, I further developed my keen interest in animal welfare. Following this opportunity, I pursued a volunteer position at a veterinary clinic where I experienced a sample of what life would be like as a veterinarian. It was this role that solidified my passion for animal care and inspired me to apply to the Animal Biosciences program at the University of Guelph. In the fall of 2020, I began my M.Sc. by coursework under the supervision of Dr. Tina Widowski and Dr. Ian Duncan


My research investigates the effect that the early rearing environment has on a hen’s dustbathing behaviour. Dustbathing is characterized by a hen scratching, bill-raking, and rubbing its body and wings against a substrate (sand, peat moss etc.). It has been suggested that dustbathing plays an essential role in thermoregulation, removing parasites/stale feather lipids, and in the overall maintenance of good plumage condition. However, dustbathing behaviour develops regardless of whether or not hens have early experience with substrate and is even observed in adults living in conventional wire cages, suggesting that it is a motivated behaviour. Therefore, when a bird’s housing environment does not provide adequate conditions for dustbathing, it is considered a welfare concern. 


I am looking to study the behaviour of hens, either reared in conventional barren cages or aviaries, that are now housed in enriched colony cages. My research will investigate the impact this difference in early experience has had on their dustbathing behaviour. It is my hope that my findings will be used to further the understanding of dustbathing as a welfare concern as Canada continues its commitment to phasing-out conventional cages by 2036. Following the completion of my Master’s degree, I intend to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.


In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, cooking, reading, the company of friends, volunteering with animals, and spending copious amounts of time with my dog.