Laura Whalin

Laura Whalin was a participant in the 2017 UBC Three Minute Thesis competition, with her presentation, “Pair Housing of Calves in Modified Calf Hutches”.

Research Topic

Pre-weaned Dairy Calf Housing

Research Group

Animal Welfare Program

Research Description

In North America and other parts of the world, dairy calves are most commonly housed individually during the milk feeding period. However, a series of scientific studies has shown that raising milk-fed calves in small groups provides health and welfare benefits, including increased intake of solid feed, increased growth, improved ability to perform social behaviors and decreased fearfulness. The objective of my research is to determine if pair housing, the simplest form of social housing, on a commercial dairy farm can provide similar benefits to those previously described in research settings.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I most enjoy working with, and learning from, the people in my program. The supervisors, instructors, program coordinator, and fellow students are bright, friendly people who never cease to inspire me.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The best surprise was a calm, relaxed atmosphere where everyone’s interests are recognized as important. At UBC people can study, and find resources relating to any topic--from First Nations history to food security; in Vancouver people can discover a variety of wonders--from mountainous parks to a cornucopia of foods. Vancouver and UBC afford a stimulating atmosphere in which to live and learn.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

While researching different universities, I was impressed by the University of British Columbia’s contributions to the scientific literature, the interest the professors showed toward prospective students, and the freedom the students were given to ask creative questions. When I visited the university I was astounded by the beauty, resources, and above all, the enthusiasm the students shared for the Animal Welfare Program at UBC. I knew that if I attended UBC I would be part of a community, where the sharing of ideas and comradery contributed more to progress than competition and learning would be done through friendly discussions. My decision to study at UBC was most influenced by the society I experienced during a short visit. This glimpse was an accurate representation that has allowed me to learn, experiment, and grow over the past two years.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The UBC Animal Welfare Program is not only internationally recognized as a leading contributor to animal welfare science, it is also the home to an international community of students, staff, and faculty collaborating as both friends and colleagues. These brilliant minds, with a diverse set of perspectives, all aiming for one goal was a beautiful combination that I wanted to learn from, and hopefully contribute to during my graduate degree.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I pursued a graduate degree in Animal Welfare because of my interest in animals, and my passion for learning. I grew up on a farm where we truly wanted the animals to be healthy, and, may I say, “happy.” A childhood filled with animals led to my undergraduate coursework in Animal Sciences where I was exposed to different scientific disciplines, varying views of animals, and the growing field of animal welfare. I challenged myself to work with unfamiliar species (e.g. exotic animals in a zoo, pigs, and sheep), and an array of topics (e.g. economics, international studies, and biosciences). After taking a few courses where animal welfare was discussed, I sought professor mentorship and developed research relating to animal care. During my final year, I contributed to three studies exploring ways to improve the welfare of pigs. The challenges and joys of my research experiences, intertwined with my passions for animals and learning, led to my pursuit of a graduate degree in animal welfare.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Graduate school is different from anything you will ever do; it is both a school and a job. I find that keeping a to-do-list of everything so that each step can be celebrated, no matter how minor, is important for keeping motivated. I also am more efficient when I set aside a few hours per day to do something I enjoy, unrelated to my degree. Staying on-track, refreshed, and positive is up to you, so be sure to include them in your daily schedule.