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Lauren Fletcher


Position/Title: M.Sc. Candidate
email: lfletc03@uoguelph.ca
Phone: 519-824-4120 ext. 56689
Office: ANNU 032

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Education

BScH - Biology Major & Mathematics Minor, Queen’s University (2019)

MSc Candidate - Swine Reproductive Physiology, University of Guelph (Current)

Finding My Interests

While pursuing my general undergraduate science degree, I developed specific interests in the fields of animal physiology and mathematics, and became focused on gaining as much knowledge and skills in these areas as I could. Through these interests, as well as past experiences in livestock agriculture, I recognized my desire to pursue an MSc thesis project that integrated the study of reproductive physiology and multivariate statistics or bioinformatics. This lead me to study at the University of Guelph in the Animal Biosciences department with Dr. Julang Li and work alongside Sudhanshu SudanXiaoshu ZhanRenée Hilker and Serena Dingle.

Current Research

As an MSc candidate, my thesis project is focused on applying metabolomics to identify biomarkers (biological indicators of a phenotypic state) for the current or future reproductive performance of sows and gilts (young female pigs). North American pork operations heavily rely on genetics when selecting gilts for the breeding herd. However, the heritability of many important reproductive parameters, such as litter size, is poor, reducing selection efficiency and negatively impacting economic profit and pig welfare. I am in the process of screening urine, saliva and serum samples collected from gilts and sows at Arkell Swine Research Station for the concentration of a variety of reproductively relevant metabolites (amino acids, hormones, vitamins, lipids, etc.). Using a multivariate statistics workflow applied using Metaboanalyst and machine learning techniques, I hope to identify metabolites and metabolic processes that are altered between sows or gilts of high reproductive potential and low reproductive potential (defined by the average number of piglets born alive per litter). If the metabolites identified in this comparison can then be applied to a test set of samples and accurately predict sow and gilt reproductive potential, the next step is to develop a method in which they can be integrated into gilt selection protocols to improve their efficiency.

My research is in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement (CCSI) and the Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC) and funded by Food from Thought.

Additional Research

- Optimization of bioreactor fermentations of the expression yeast host Pichia pastoris for the large-scale extracellular expression and cultivation of recombinant protein (Syn-PG and EGF) (related publication).

- Involvement in swine feed trials:

     (1) Development of the female swine reproductive tract influenced by Omega-3 and Choline feed additives (not yet published).

     (2) Maintenance of intestinal/gut health and microbiota with the application of fermented soybean meal and commensal microbes (not yet published).