Animal Behavior and Welfare

Who We Are

Faculty       Graduate Students

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:

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