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Department of Animal Sciences


Highlighting Research: 7 Student, Faculty & Staff researchers and the questions they are answering

April 9, 2024
Undergraduate Student, Melva Tacuri Vera, presents her research to an industry professional.

The Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University is home to many researchers and industry experts exploring a broad range of topics to help create solutions for an ever-changing industry and world. In honor of “Celebration of Research Week” at Ohio State, we’ve highlighted seven student, faculty and staff researchers and the impacts they are making during their time on campus.


April White: Dairy Nutrition and Sustainability

For Graduate researcher April White, how diets, digestibility and the rumen microbiome relate are at the forefront of the questions she aims to answer with her research in dairy cattle.

April works with dual-flow continuous cultures, which allow her to assess the impact of dietary interventions on the rumen microbiome. “Overall, my projects look at how branch-chain volatile fatty acids (BCVFA) interact with dietary precursors to influence digestibility in dairy cows.”

April knows improving our knowledge of BCVFA supplementation in the microbiome will allow us to optimize our dairy cattle’s feed efficiency, improving sustainability of dairy products while reducing the physical and carbon footprint required to feed a growing human population.

“BCVFA have demonstrated positive effects on milk and milk fat production, so finding out the optimal dose and type of diet that supports maximum effectiveness will help support the dairy industry and increase the US milk per cow– and make more butter for Christmas cookies,” April shares.


Brady Campbell: Solar Technology in Livestock Production

New technology often presents the opportunity for innovation. Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences seeks to capitalize on animal production opportunities as solar energy expands into the agriculture industry. Campbell’s research focuses on developing the best management practices for vegetation within utility-scale solar by grazing sheep and/or making hay.

Beyond management practices, his research team also generates data that quantifies the impacts of utility-scale solar site construction on the soil, forage yields and surrounding landscapes. Campbell also examines the economic impact for farmers, developing budgets of livestock production systems to foster adoption of these innovative energy systems.


Kim Cole: Equine Welfare

Human-animal interactions are an ever-evolving field of study that helps illustrate how we can foster positive and sustainable relationships across species. Dr. Kim Cole specializes in this area of study in horses, conducting applied, on-farm research applicable to industry needs. “My research focuses on improving equine health and welfare by evaluating the influence of human-animal interactions on physiological and psychological/behavioral responses of both human and animals.”

Some of Cole’s recent projects include the use of hair cortisol as a potential biomarker for long-term stress in horses and the influence of routine management procedures on physiological and psychological responses in horses.  Cole also explores the human side of these relationships, exploring the influence of live animals in educational settings, of physical characteristics on animal preference, and the influence of human-animal interactions on the mental health of college students.


Carolyn Lee: Food Stability through Preventative Management

With an ever-increasing population and need for stability in the food supply, researcher Carolyn Lee works to help mitigate threats to food animals and those who care for them through her research on zoonotic diseases. To Lee, the possibility of engineering vaccines and performing pre-clinical trials to prevent diseases in food animals is cutting edge research that can help ensure the stability needed in livestock production. Outside of treatment, researchers in this field of study also work diligently to provide information that supports understanding disease prevention, narrowing the knowledge gap to aid in the design of novel therapeutic interventions.


Milena Conte: Enhancing Nutrition through Better Processing

Have you ever thought about how we can enhance our food to better support nutritional needs? This is what graduate researcher Milena Conte works to achieve every day.

The USDA reports that “95% of Americans don’t get enough fiber, and on average, American adults consume only half the fiber they need.” Conte, advised by Dr. Benjamin Bohrer, characterizes dietary fiber compounds and explores novel ingredients for improving dietary fiber in processed meat products. She looks closely at what dietary fiber ingredients will have the appropriate properties for being effectively integrated in the processed meats, aiming to increase their nutritional profile while limiting negative physiochemical (physical properties) and sensory effects of a product.


Dr. Teddy Ezeji: Waste Management for a Better Bottom Line

A key question in the minds of today’s livestock producers is how we can continue to improve sustainability while also bolstering our bottom line. Dr. Thaddeus (Teddy) Ezeji is helping answer this question, developing strategies to treat wastes from beef, dairy, and biofuel industries and prevent water contamination while simultaneously boosting farmer returns.

“In addition to preventing the contamination of the water table and waterways with agricultural wastes, my research contributes to the broader public by advancing the development of novel technologies that substitute food-grade fermentation substrates with agricultural residues, industrial and environmental wastes such as lignocellulosic biomass, glycerol and CO2 generated from biodiesel and fermentation industries. If these technologies are commercialized, they will have the potential to generate new employment opportunities, bolster energy independence, promote sustainability, and contribute to food security.”

Lauren Vitanza: Better Food through Enhanced Safety

Graduate researcher Lauren Vitanza explores food safety and meat quality in lamb, comparing different antimicrobial agents on bacterial contamination in lamb carcasses. Advised by Dr. Benjamin Bohrer, Vitanza aims to determine which antimicrobial intervention method is most effective against bacterial contamination, and how these interventions may impact end-products for the consumer. Through her research, Vitanza is helping processors make educated decisions on best practices for both food safety and consumer satisfaction.