Who We Are

CAWS Director: Candace Croney, Ph.D.

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

Research Interests: Human-animal bond; urban animal ecology; animal companionship; the effects of animal use for therapy.

Heng-wei Chang

Heng-wei Cheng, Ph.D.

Research Biologist
USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit

Dr. Cheng has been a research scientists at USDA-ARS LBRU and Purdue University for 13 years.  Dr. Cheng’s research has been focused on animal well-being, with emphases on the interactions of the psychological, genetic, neurobiological, physiological, and immunological events that alter an animal’s adaptability to husbandry environments. His current research emphases are on 1) pain in farm animals, following various management practices, such as beak trimming in poultry; 2) genetic selection for improving animal well-being; 3) preventing aggression by modification of the serotonin system; 4) developing intervention strategies for increasing heat tolerance; and 5) developing alternative housing systems for improving animal health and production.

Candace Croney

Candace Croney, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Animal Welfare Science
Associate Professor of Animal Behavior and Well-being

Research Interests: cognition; companion and agricultural animal welfare; enrichment; animal bioethics; public perceptions of animal agriculture.

Brianna Gaskill

Susan Eicher, Ph.D.

Research Physiologist (Animals)
USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit

Research Interests: Immunology, Behavior and Well-Being


Brianna Gaskill

Brianna Gaskill, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Animal Welfare in Comparative Pathobiology

Research Interests: laboratory animal welfare.

Janice Kritchevsky

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

Professor, Large Animal Medicine

Research Interests: equine endocrinology and equine geriatric medicine; the welfare implications of chronic laminitis and other lameness in horses

Donald C. Lay Jr.

Donald C. Lay Jr.

Ph.D. Texas A&M University 1995
Livestock Behavior Research Unit
USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Don's research focuses on applied ethology and stress physiology. His recent projects are aimed at: increasing sow longevity, developing an alternative, humane method of euthanizing piglets, increasing neonatal piglet survival, investigating affective states in swine, and understanding the methods in which animals adapt to climate change.

Maja Makagon

Maja Makagon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Animal Sciences

Research Interests: 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

Bill Muir

William Muir, Ph.D.

Professor of Animal Sciences

Research Interests: breeding and genetics; poultry; aquaculture; developing genetic methods to improve adaptability, stress resistance, and animal well-being

Niwako Ogata

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

Assistant Professor of Animal Behavior

Research Interests: pursuing mental health and well-being in companion animals; translational research between the human psychiatric field and veterinary behavior.

Maggie O'Haire

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

Assistant Professor of Human-Animal Interaction in Comparative Pathobiology

Research Interests: animal-assisted intervention; human-animal interaction in populations such as children with autism, ADHD, cancer, and the general population; www.humananimalinteraction.org

Tracy Vemulapalli

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

Clinical Assistant Professor in Comparative Pathobiology
Director, The Indiana Graduate Training/Residency Program in Laboratory Animal Medicine

Research Interests: refining selective neuromuscular blockade for therapeutic applications; collaborative research in the area of infectious disease (rodent models); refinement of laboratory animal housing, husbandry, and enrichment (multiple species); refinement of animal models of human diseases.

Hsin-Yi Weng

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

Assistant Professor of Clinical/Analytical Epidemiology

Research Interests: epidemiologic methods and their applications to human-animal interaction studies and animal welfare sciences

Nicole Olynk Widmar

Nicole Olynk Widmar, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics

Research Interests: farm business management; on-farm decisions making; integrating consumer demand for livestock housing and handling practices into production decisions

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Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Researchers

Ann Cummins

Ann Cummins

B.S. in Mathematics, St. Mary's University of Minnesota
Research Assistant and Masters Student, Agricultural Economics

Research Interests: agribusiness; applied research related to the impacts of management decisions, marketing, and consumer preferences

Jiaying Hu

Jiaying Hu

B.S. in Bioengineering, Shanghai University

Masters Student, Animal Sciences
Advisor: Heng-wei Cheng

Research Interests: effects of different diets and environments on the poultry welfare

Moriah HurtMoriah Hurt

B.S. in Animal Sciences, Purdue University

Masters Student, Comparative Pathoiology
Advisor: Dr. Candace Croney

Research Interests: welfare and behavior of dogs in kennel environmnets

Jay S Johnson

Jay S. Johnson, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate
ARS-USDA Livestock Behavior Research Unit

B.S. in Animal Sciences, University of Missouri
M.S. in Animal Sciences, University of Missouri
Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences, Iowa State University

Research Interests: effects of environmental and nutritional stress (pre- and postnatal) on physiology, metabolic health, and overall wellbeing of livestock and laboratory animal species

Carissa McKay

Carissa McKay

B.S. in Agricultural Business, Purdue University 
Research Assistant and Masters Student, Agricultural Economics

Research Interests: applied research related to the impacts of on-farm decisions, dairy economics, international development


Gabriella Morello

Gabriella Morello

Degree in Agricultural Engineering, State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil
MS, University of Kentucky

Ph.D. Student, Animal Sciences
Advisor: Dr. Jeremy Marchant-Forde

Research Interests: animal welfare in swine production, welfare of sows and piglets in farrowing systems

Judi Stella

Judi Stella, Ph.D.

Science Fellow, USDA-APHIS
Dr. Croney Lab

B.S. in Animal Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University
Ph.D. in Comparative and Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University

Research Interests: effects of environment on behavior and welfare of companion animals; impacts of the quality of human-animal interactions; how societal perceptions of animals affect the human-animal bond and relinquishment or abandonment of companion animals

Feifei Yan

Feifei Yan

BS, Zhejiang University

Ph.D. Student, Animal Sciences

Research Interests: Osteoporosis in egg laying hens strains of chickens, the effect of mechanical loading on skeletal mineralization and integrity in egg laying strains of chickens

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