Our Team

Brianna GaskillBrianna Gaskill, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor at Purdue University

Brianna Gaskill received her bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and Ph.D. from Purdue University. Her research program is aimed at investigating how good laboratory animal welfare translates into good science. The laboratory environment is not well suited to meet the needs of many of the animals in our care, therefore her research is aimed at identifying species specific welfare challenges in the laboratory as well as designing and implementing practical solutions to alleviate those challenges. Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science facilitates the well-being of all captive animals, including farm, companion, and laboratory animals.

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Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science

Megan LaFolletteMegan LaFollette

Ph.D. Student

Megan received her bachelor of science in biology from Truman State University in Missouri. As an undergraduate, she investigated the efficacy of positive reinforcement training using food rewards in horses. Her research interests focus on the effects of human-animal interactions on both animals and people. Dr. Marguerite O’Haire is co-advising Megan to help explore the effects of these interactions on humans.

Currently, Megan is investigating the effects of positive handling (tickling) pet and laboratory rats on their welfare, caretakers, the public, and future owners. Rats are social animals that seem to benefit from this positive interaction in the laboratory, but what about in a commercial situation? Some rats seem to enjoy this interaction more than others, do they enjoy more benefits? Also, how does establishing a human-animal bond effect caretakers and owners?

Lindsey RobbinsLindsey Robbins

Ph.D. Student

Lindsey Robbins received her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY and her Master’s of research in Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation from Roehampton University in London, UK. As an undergrad she investigated the effects of auditory enrichment on western lowland gorillas and a variety of African bird species. Her primary research focus is on animal welfare and continued this line of research while investigating the use of thermal imaging as a way to assess emotional states in Barbary macaques for her Master’s dissertation.

Currently, Lindsey is investigating the thermal preferences of sows while working with Dr Brianna Gaskill and Jay Johnson. This line of research has not been extensively studied, rather the thermal preferences and heat stress index has been adapted from cattle and used with swine.

Amanda BarabasAmanda Barabas

Ph.D. Student

Amanda received her bachelor of science degree in biology from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Her undergraduate work focused on identifying the motivations behind wheel running in a male fossa housed in the Cleveland Metroparks’ Zoo. Her main research goal is to investigate the underlying roles of genetics and environment on the development of animal behaviors. This interest stems from her participation in dog show competitions growing up where she experienced a wide variety of canine behavioral profiles.

Her current research focuses on how mice can use olfactory communication to mediate aggressive behavior in captive settings. Spontaneous escalated aggression can occur in cages of group housed male mice and lead to severe injury or death of one or more mice. A common solution is to isolate the aggressor, but as a naturally social species, mice experience more stress when individually housed. Amanda hopes to uncover an aggression appeasement pheromone that could potentially be used in commercial labs to maintain peace in their colonies.

Rebecca Smith

Masters Student

Rebecca received her bachelor of science in animal sciences from Purdue University. As an undergraduate, Rebecca worked in Dr. Gaskill’s lab as an intern watching behavior video of swine for a heat preference study and helping out Melissa Swan with her rat cage color experiment. Her research goals include creating better environments for livestock and their owners, increasing positive welfare in commercial settings, and bridging the gap between research and industry.

Currently, Rebecca is finishing up a piglet euthanasia project that looks at the effects of using nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. She will then start work on her thesis project that deals with sow enrichment in farrowing crates and seeing how scratching enrichment can improve their welfare and where it can be implemented.

Melissa SwanMelissa Swan

Veterinary Student/Summer Research Scholar

Melissa Swan received her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Purdue University and her associates of applied sciences from Portland Community College in Veterinary Technology in 2008. She is an active registered veterinary technician with experience in laboratory animal medicine, exotic animal medicine, primate medicine, and emergency animal medicine.

Melissa currently is pursuing her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Purdue University Class of 2018. She intends to complete a PhD in interdisciplinary studies involving the role of spectral environment of tinted plastics on rodent welfare and diabetic models. She is interested in understanding the conditions under which laboratory rodents will prefer to select colored environments over standard laboratory caging and whether these preferences are induced by the high intensity lighting the laboratory environment provides.

Previous Graduate Students

Amy Robinson-JunkerAmy Robinson-Junker

Masters Student

Amy Robinson-Junker received her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Her varied experiences as an animal shelter worker, veterinary technician, and zookeeper crystallized her interest in and commitment to improving animal welfare.

Her current work is exploring the effects of sleep interruption on lab mice. Since mice are nocturnal, human activity frequently occurs during their normal sleep period. I am investigating if this activity disturbs or alters their sleep patterns using a non-invasive piezoelectric monitoring apparatus. I am also interested in the effect that varying amounts of nesting material might have on these potential disturbances, i.e. is a mouse with more nesting material better able to sleep through human activity during the light phase?

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