Dr. Tina Widowski inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame

Posted on Sunday, June 9th, 2024

photo of Dr. Tina Widowski receiving OAC Hall of Fame award
Dr. Widowski with board member Jean Howden.

Dr. Tina Widowski, professor in the Department of Animal Biosciences, was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame this weekend in recognition of her significant contributions to Ontario agriculture and the poultry and swine industries.

For the last 40 years, Widowski’s research has focused on how modern farming practices impact the behaviour, physiology and welfare of animals, with an interest in chickens and pigs who often live in confined housing systems. Her work balances the need for healthy farm animals with best practices that support economically sustainable farms.

Widowski aims to bridge the gap and help farmers use new technologies in ways that maintain farm efficiency while improving animal well-being.

Some of her most notable research addresses crucial industry issues including investigating essential housing design, effects of early life experiences on behavioural development and lifelong welfare and identifying best methods that farmers can use to euthanize sick and injured animals on their farms. The result of this work is over 200 peer-reviewed scientific publications and book chapters and 7000 citations.

Getting her start in her home state of Illinois

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Widowski had limited exposure to animals outside of family pets and regular trips to the zoo. She aspired to use her passion for animal biology and behaviour to become a veterinarian or zoologist.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Ecology, Ethology and Evolution in 1983, she pursued a Masters Degree and Doctorate in Animal Science at the same university. In 1990, she arrived at the University of Guelph from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an Assistant Researcher. By 2007, she had become a Professor in the Department of Animal Biosciences.

In the 33 years since she arrived in Guelph, Tina has mentored 71 graduate students, seven post-doctoral students and served on 73 advisory committees that supported additional graduate students. Today, these students represent faculty, government leaders and employees at farm organizations and welfare groups around the world.

In partnership with another colleague, Widowski also helps lead students in an experiential learning course on assessing animal welfare, ending in the annual AVMA Animal Welfare Judging Competition, where students regularly achieve top five finishes, earning their team nickname: "The University of Gwelfare."

“Dr. Widowski embodies qualities of integrity, respect and responsibility in her research, teaching and service to agriculture. Her legacy lies in her unwavering commitment to the discipline and her dedication to nurturing the next generation of highly-qualified personnel who will continue her mission of making the world a better place through their contributions.”

Director of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare

In 2007, Widowski was appointed the second ever Director of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare (CCSAW). Under her direction, the research centre successfully expanded the Department of Animal Biosciences graduate program to include Animal Behaviour and Welfare as a specialization, creating four new courses that are still taught today.

Widowski also established CCSAW seminar series and annual research symposium, secured funding to establish the Saputo Dairy Care program and the Burnbrae Farms Professorship in Poultry Welfare and developed a training program for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (OSPCA) to train inspectors on how to assess animal welfare.

With her help, CCSAW has become the largest Animal Welfare research centre in North America and one of the world’s largest.

Turning research into standard best management practices

In Canada, the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) spearheads Codes of Practice that are developed in partnership with scientific committees that make science-informed decisions on the best ways to care and handle farm animals.

Widowski has served as a member or chair for three codes of practice developed for pigs, poultry meat birds and laying hens.

“What sets Dr. Widowski apart is her ability to translate her research into actionable change,” says Dr. John Cranfield, Dean of OAC. “Tina has dedicated countless hours cultivating strong relationships with industry partners that has significantly strengthened poultry research in Canada, in addition to helping turn her research into policy in Canada and abroad.”

Research Chair in Poultry Welfare

In 2011, Widowski was appointed the Research Chair in Poultry Welfare by the Egg Farmers of Canada. The appointment has provided her with incredible opportunities to work directly with egg farmers, conduct field research that allows her students access to commercial farms and transfer research knowledge.

About the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame

It is the mission of the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association to acknowledge, record and preserve the contributions made by leaders to the growth and development of Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food industry. You can visit the Hall of Fame, located at 1 Stone Road West in Guelph.

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