I am a recent graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University where I received my B.A. in Biology, with a specialization in molecular biology. During my time as an undergraduate student I became acquainted with and began working under the supervision of Dr. Tristan Long. Throughout my time in The Long Lab I went on to complete two directed studies projects on evolution and sexual conflict in Drosophila melanogaster. From this experience it became evident to me that I loved research and wanted to continue to pursue it, though I knew that evolution and entomology just weren’t for me. I have always had a strong interest and passion for animals, particularly regarding animal welfare and ethics. This led me to seek out a project that would both drive and inspire me; which is how I ended up in Dr. Alexandra Harlander’s office. We discussed her research projects on poultry welfare and I was happy to seize the opportunity to pursue a M.Sc. with the Harlander lab.
My thesis research is focused on the impact of musculo-skeletal health on the development of keel bone damage in the adult laying hen. The keel bone provides a site of attachment for a large flight muscle known as the pectoralis. Despite the abundance of research aimed at identifying the origins of keel bone damage, very few studies have investigated the relationship between pectoralis muscle use and keel bone health. Wing feathers are important for a hen’s ability to perform wing-assisted jumping behaviours and to coordinate short flights within housing systems. Feather-loss is a common occurrence for laying hens due to a behavioural phenomenon known as feather-pecking, in which hens repeatedly pluck out the feathers of their cage mates. The objective of my research is to determine the relationship between wing feather-loss, pectoralis muscle use, and keel bone damage in the adult laying hen. We will investigate this by trimming the wing feathers of laying hens and recording their aerial activity, pectoralis muscle mass, and incidences of keel bone damage.
It is my hope that our research project, alongside others, will contribute to the foundation of knowledge that is needed to prevent keel bone damage for future generations of laying hens.