Graduate Positions Available

Our animal welfare graduate positions for 2020-2021 include:

Welfare friendly alternative to surgical castration in piglets

(MSc thesis project, scholarship available)

Genetic selection of low boar taint animals offers a non-invasive, cost effective and welfare friendly solution to the issue of boar taint. It may also improve animal growth and productivity. However, producing entire males raises other welfare issues, such as increased aggression and the performance of sexual behaviour, which may cause leg and feet injuries leading to lameness. Therefore, raising entire males may require changes in management. Before genetic selection for low boar taint individuals is proposed as a solution to producers, more research is needed to ensure that its welfare implications are thoroughly understood. This project proposes to determine how breeding for low boar taint potentially affects behaviour, physiology and meat quality.

The MSc student will be co-supervised by Dr. Jim Squires and Dr. Renée Bergeron in Animal Biosciences. The research project will take place at the Ponsonby research station. 

Contact: Dr. Jim Squires or or Dr. Renée Bergeron at

The effects of musculoskeletal fitness upon keel bone damage in the adult laying hen

(MSc thesis project, scholarship available)

Our project will focus on the biomechanics and physiology of locomotion and the effects of musculoskeletal fitness upon keel bone damage in the adult laying hen.
We will conduct research experiments through a collaborative approach across different research fields (PI's): Dr. Harlander (University of Guelph, Canada), Dr. Tobalske (University of Montana, USA), Dr. Powers (George Fox University, USA).
Contact: Dr. Alexander Harlander,

The gut-brain axis and destructive feather-plucking in laying hens

(MSc thesis project, with funding pending)

Globally, billions of hens are farmed for their eggs, but 60-80% are affected by destructive behaviours in which birds pluck each other’s feathers. The Harlander Lab has found that hens who do this have altered gut microbiomes. Could this in turn compromise their brain function by elevating inflammation and/or by altering how they metabolise tryptophan? This project would test these hypotheses.

Contact: Dr. Alexander Harlander,

Validating a video-tracking system for the real time measurement of pig behaviour

(MSc thesis project, $19,100 a year for two years)

This MSc project will assess the validity of a new technology (akin to Noldus’s Ethovision), for measuring social interactions, aggression and other behaviour patterns in groups of farmed pigs.

Contact: Dr. Renée Bergeron,

How does life in a small bare cage affect social competence in mice?

(MSc coursework; plus MSc and PhD positions for winners of major scholarships)

Like many farm, zoo and lab animals raised in small barren enclosures, standard-housed mice show stereotypic behaviours (e.g. pacing and fur-plucking) and other signs of stress. As a result, are such mice unattractive as mates? Prone to female-skewed litters? Poor at maternal care? Impaired at prosocial behaviour, but good at attracting “empathy”? The Mason Lab is exploring all these ideas and more.

Contact: Dr. Georgia Mason,

If you are interested in beginning graduate studies in a particular area, please contact any of our Core Faculty members directly, to inquire about opportunities within thier research programs.