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Who We Are

CAWS Director: Candace Croney, Ph.D.

CAWS Administrative Assistant: Melissa Schwartz

Steering Committee:

  • Alan Beck, Director, Center for the Human-Animal Bond
  • Nancy Edwards, Associate Professor of Nursing and Director, AGNP Program
  • Bill Muir, Professor of Animal Sciences
  • Tracy Vemulapalli, Clinical Assistant Professor in Comparative Pathobiology
  • Nicole Widmar, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics


Scientists with the USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit are Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Animal Sciences.

Alan Beck

Alan Beck, Sc.D.

Director, Center for the Human-Animal Bond

Dorothy N. McAllister Professor of Animal Ecology

Alan M. Beck received his Baccalaureate from Brooklyn College and Master's degree from California State University at Los Angeles. He received his Doctorate in Animal Ecology from The Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. He has studied the ecological and public health implications of dogs in Baltimore, St. Louis, New York, and along the United States-Mexican border. His book, The Ecology of Stray Dogs: A Study of Free-Ranging Urban Dogs is considered a classic in the field of urban ecology and was republished by Purdue University Press in 2002.

Together with Dr. Aaron Katcher, he edited the book, New Perspectives on Our Lives with Companion Animals, and co-authored Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship, first published in 1983 then revised in 1996 Beck has published numerous articles on the nature of our relationship with animals and is a founding board member of the Delta Society.

Beck directed the animal programs for the New York City Department of Health for five years, and then was the Director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine for 10 years.

In 1990, he became the "Dorothy N. McAllister Professor of Animal Ecology" and Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond in the School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Candace Croney

Candace Croney, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Animal Behavior and Well-being

Candace earned her bachelor's degree in Animal Science from Cook College, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and her master's and PhD in Animal Behavior and Welfare from The Pennsylvania State University. Her research interests include the interactions between animal behavior, cognition and well-being, the effects of rearing environments and enrichment on animal behavior and welfare, the ethical implications of animal care and use decisions, and public perceptions of animal agriculture. Her research on farm animal cognition has been featured in national and international broadcast programs by National Geographic, the BBC and their affiliates. She serves as scientific advisor on animal welfare to numerous groups, including American Humane Association, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, Bob Evans Farms, P & G Inc., and CFI's Animal Care Review Panel.

Brianna Gaskill

Brianna Gaskill, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Animal Welfare in Comparative Pathobiology

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.

Maja Makagon

Maja Makagon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Animal Sciences

Born in Poland, Maja Makagon earned a bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Virginia, a master's degree in psychology at Cornell University and a PhD in animal behavior at the University of California, Davis. She takes an integrative approach to research, drawing from theoretical and applied perspectives and methodologies in animal behavior to find solutions to issues in modern animal production. Broadly, her interests surround ways in which animals perceive and interact with features of their environments, and the implications these interactions have on the management, well-being and productivity of animals in commercial settings. Her current projects center on 3 broad areas of research: understanding social interactions in commercially housed poultry; understanding the effects of an animal's physical and social environment on its behavior and welfare; and development of valid and reliable measures of welfare. Dr. Makagon is a member of the Poultry Science Association and is the current U.S. Regional Secretary for the International Society for Applied Ethology.

Bill Muir

William Muir, Ph.D.

Professor of Animal Sciences

William Muir's primary areas of expertise are population and quantitative genetics/genomics with a research focus on the application of genomics to develop marker assisted breeding programs for complex traits with emphasis on disease resistance and animal behavior. His laboratory has also developed genetic methods to improve adaptability, stress resistance, and animal well-being. Understanding how to account for and reduce competitive interactions in artificial breeding programs would greatly increase response to selection, and expand the range of species that can be domesticated; such as carnivorous and/or cannibalistic shell- and game-fish, and also improve animal well-being of those species that have been domesticated. Experimental results with group selection and mixed model methods showed that both methods had positive and sometimes extraordinary improvements as compared to convention individual selection.

Maggie O'Haire

Marguerite (Maggie) O'Haire, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Human-Animal Interaction in Comparative Pathobiology

Dr. Marguerite (Maggie) O'Haire completed her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Vassar College in New York. She then travelled to Australia on a Fulbright Fellowship to study animal-assisted intervention for autism spectrum disorder. She completed her PhD in Psychology from The University of Queensland. Her program of research focuses on Human-Animal Interaction in a number of populations, including children with autism, ADHD, cancer, and the general population. Further details of her research program can be found here: www.humananimalinteraction.org.

Tracy Vemulapalli

Tracy Vemulapalli, D.V.M., M.S., D.A.C.L.A.M.

Clinical Assistant Professor in Comparative Pathobiology

Tracy Vemulapalli completed her bachelor's degree at the University of Maryland, and received her D.V.M. at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. She received masters degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and from Purdue University. Her current research focuses in four areas: refining selective neuromuscular blockade for therapeutic and cosmetic applications; collaborative research in the area of infectious disease (rodent models); refinement of laboratory animal housing, husbandry, and enrichment (multiple species); and refinement of animal models of human diseases.

Nicole Olynk Widmar

Nicole Olynk Widmar, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Agricultural Economics

Nicole Olynk Widmar specializes in farm business management, on-farm decisions making, and integrating consumer demand for livestock housing and handling practices into production decisions. She received her A.A.S. from Alfred State College in Animal Science, B.S. from Cornell University in Animal Science, and M.S. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Agricultural Economics. Dr. Widmar has an integrated program of applied research, extension and outreach, and teaching; she teaches AGEC 310, Farm Organization, as well as coordinates the graduate-level seminar course, The Business of Agriculture.

Center for Food and Agricultural Business

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Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Researchers

Ann Cummins

Ann Cummins has been a Research Assistant and Masters Student in the department of Agricultural Economics since August of 2013. She has a strong interest in Agribusiness and applied research related to the impacts of management decisions, marketing, and consumer preferences. Ann graduated in 2011 from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in Mathematics. She enjoys using applying her mathematical skills combined with economic theory to gain new insights regarding business decision-making and insights on consumer preferences.

Before coming to Purdue University, Ann was a Senior Merchandise Presentation Specialist for Target, based in Minneapolis MN. While there, Ann managed floor pad presentations and communication with stores throughout the country. She also, researched, advised and documented easier, more executable merchandising strategy to facilitate improved communication and layout at the store level. Ann was recognized for team leadership and process expertise.

Jiaying Hu

Jiaying Hu

Jiaying Hu is from China where she finished her Bachelor's degree in Bioengineering at Shanghai University. In August 2011 Jiaying enrolled at Purdue University to pursue her Master's degree in animal sciences under Heng-wei Cheng who is with the United States Department of Agriculture. Throughout her first year here, she has begun working with poultry, mostly chickens, and has learned to pay close attention to not only animal welfare, but also behavior, as well as neurotransmitters and hormones related to the well-being. Her master's project is focused on the effects of different diets and environments on the poultry welfare. The goal is to determine the best combination of diet and environment which have the most positive effect on the physiology of those birds housed in that system.

Animals are often known as the best friends of human beings, especially for those who grew up in China as an only child, animals accompany them for the majority of time during their childhood. It is the responsibility of humans to provide animals a better environment to live in to increase their quality of life. Animals serve not only as pets, but many species serve as a model to test the new drugs and techniques. This is important in that these new methods could be applied to animals housed in production or research settings, family pets, or even human beings.

Gabriella Morello

Gabriella Morello

Gabriella Morello is currently working on her Ph.D. degree in the Animal Sciences Department at Purdue University, together with the USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit, under the direction of Dr. Jeremy Marchant-Forde. Her research is geared towards animal welfare issues in swine production, particularly in welfare of sows and piglets in farrowing systems. Gabriella graduated from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil, in 2008 with a degree in Agricultural Engineering. During her time there she worked on poultry welfare with Dr. Daniella Moura and Dr. Irenilza Naas. In 2009, Gabriella came to the United States to work on a Poultry House Evaluation Service project with Dr. Doug Overhults and Dr. Rich Gates. In January of 2010, she began a master's program at the University of Kentucky working in the area of environmental controls under the direction of Dr. Overhults, Dr. George Day, and Dr. Rich Gates. Specifically, Gabriella developed a procedure for using the Fans Assessment Numeration System (FANS) to test fans in poultry houses, which minimizes possible penalties associated with air flow measurements.

Judi Stella

Judi Stella, Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Judi earned her bachelor's degree in Animal Sciences from The Pennsylvania State University and her Ph.D. in Comparative and Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research interests include environmental factors that affect the behavior and welfare of companion animals and the impact of the quality of human-animal interactions on animal welfare. She is particularly interested in how societal perceptions of animals affect the human-animal bond and relinquishment or abandonment of companion animals. Her research to date has investigated aspects of the housing environment on cat behavior when acutely confined to a cage, simulating the experience of entering a shelter or veterinary facility. She is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Candace Croney on a project assessing cognitive abilities of piglets that could potentially be help to improve pig welfare.

Feifei Yan

Feifei Yan

Feifei Yan is from China where she got her bachelor's degree at Zhejiang University. Currently she is a PhD student at Animal Science Department of Purdue, specializing in animal welfare.

From a very young age, Feifei has always been fascinated by animals. Her passion for animals drove her to pursue Veterinary Medicine as her undergraduate major and to become an animal scientist for her professional career.

In the summer of 2009, Feifei attended a training program for exchange students at Purdue. That was the first time she learned what animal behavior experiment entails and how to preform it. She found it interesting and taught her that animal behavior is a very important part of animal welfare.

The project she is currently working on is "Osteoporosis in egg laying hens strains of chickens: Early pre-pubertal exposure to mechanical loading". The goal is to evaluate the effect of mechanical loading on skeletal mineralization and integrity in egg laying strains of chickens. According to United Egg Producers (2010), 95% of the commercial egg production in the U.S. and an estimated 90% of the world's egg production are derived from caged layers. However, cage system is widely considered to have a negative effect on the welfare of hens nowadays, such as osteoporosis. As a cooperative project, students in Dr. Hester's lab will complete the animal behavior observation and bone density detection, while Feifei will determine the stress response of hens' access to perches.

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Academic Colleagues

Janice Kritchevsky

Janice Kritchevsky, V.M.D., M.S.

Professor, Large Animal Medicine

Dr. Janice E. Kritchevsky earned a BS from Michigan State University in 1978, she received her VMD from University of Pennsylvania in 1982, in 1985 she received a Master's degree from Purdue, and then, in 1987, Dr. Kritchevsky went on to be Board certified by ACVIM in Large Animal Medicine. Following the completion of her residency in 1985 Dr. Kritchevsky became a faculty member of Purdue University.

Dr. Kritchevsky's research interests include equine endocrinology and equine geriatric medicine, and the welfare implications of chronic laminitis and other lameness in horses. Recently, she has worked on projects to monitor parasite control in horses and small ruminants, and Dr. Kritchevsky has collaborated with Dr. Sue Eicher to measure anemia in veal calves. Dr. Kritchevsky is a faculty advisor for Petsafe, a community service organization at the Veterinary School that provides short-term housing for animals owned by families that are temporarily homeless. Otherwise, Dr. Kritchevsky spends 40% of her time in the clinic attending large animal medicine cases in the large animal hospital.

Niwako Ogata

Niwako Ogata, B.V.Sc., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Animal Behavior

Dr. Niwako Ogata came to Purdue from Tufts University, where she completed a residency in animal behavior, and served as a research associate. Dr. Ogata earned her B.V.Sc. degree (DVM equivalent) at Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo, Japan in 1990. After working as a general practitioner in Tokyo and Osaka, she earned a Diploma of Applied Animal Behavior and Animal Welfare in 1997 from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. She then served as a referral veterinary behaviorist in Japan before earning her Ph.D. in veterinary medical science at the University of Tokyo in 2007. Her areas of interest include pursuing mental health and well-being in companion animals and translational research between the human psychiatric field and veterinary behavior.

Hsin-Yi Weng

Hsin-Yi Weng, B.V.M., M.P.H., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Clinical/Analytical Epidemiology

Dr. Hsin-Yi Weng earned a bachelor's degree in veterinary medicine in Taiwan, a MPH in Epidemiology at Tulane University, and then a PhD in epidemiology at UC Davis. She joined the Department of Comparative Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University in January 2012. Her PhD studies focused on dog overpopulation problems in Taiwan, including three epidemiologic studies to evaluate an educational intervention on pet dog retention, to assess risk factors for unsuccessful dog ownership among Taiwanese dog owners, and to survey Taiwanese attitude and knowledge of animal welfare and the animal protection law. Dr. Weng's research interests are in epidemiologic methods and their applications to human-animal interaction studies and animal welfare sciences. Her current studies include 1) integrating animal welfare into quantitative risk assessment for planning foreign animal disease outbreak management, 2) animal companionship in immunocompromised individuals, and 3) observational studies and their implications.

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