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UFAW Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year

2019 Award Winner

Dr Marisa A Erasmus

Education: BS and MS, University of Guelph, Ontario
PhD, Michigan State University
Post-doctoral Training: Michigan State University

During her graduate training and early career as a scientist, Marisa demonstrated independent, scientific excellence, contributed important new knowledge to improve animal welfare, and has a keen aptitude for research in her discipline of applied ethology.

Dr Erasmus has established an extension programme which is unique within the US to educate members of the public about basic animal welfare.  As an example, she conducts outreach activities every year at the Indiana State fair - a fair that attracts over 850,000 visitors annually and so her work has the potential to affect the lives of many animals.  In addition, she is developing a training programme for animal control officers and anyone who works with animals so that they can identify when animals are in need of assistance.  Homework is particularly important as many entry-level animal control jobs require little training or previous experience with animals and on-the-job animal welfare training is limited. 

While her outreach efforts are broad and touch on a variety of animal species, her applied research focuses mainly on poultry.  She has developed indicators of welfare for laying hens, ducks and turkeys to be used by producers to improve the welfare of their flocks.  Her research has spanned a wide range of welfare issues from euthanasia methods for turkeys to feather pecking in ducks and turkeys and indicators of stress and parasite infestations in turkeys and laying hens. Dr Erasmus has contributed significantly to the scientific literature on the behaviour and welfare of the domestic turkey, making her one of the few experts in turkey behaviour and welfare and has published the first and only book chapter on turkey welfare. Her research was the first to validate fear tests for turkeys and to examine the link between fearfulness and its impact on the quality of turkey meat.  Marisa has been invited to speak at national and international conferences and she currently serves on several scientific advisory boards for turkey welfare.

Dr Erasmus instructs undergraduate and graduate animal welfare courses and mentors undergraduate students. Throughout the past eight years she has individually mentored over 50 undergraduates and inspired their interest in and passion for animal welfare.

Her goals are to address welfare challenges and inspire students to become interested in animal welfare and become engaged with the agricultural industry.