WCVM Animal Behaviour Group


Below you will find a list of the people involved, or who have been involved, in applied animal behaviour research at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. Click on the individual names to read a bit more about these people and their work.

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Dr. Joseph M. Stookey, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Professor, University of Saskatchewan

B.Sc.  Animal Science (University of Illinois, USA)
M.Sc.  Animal Nutrition (University of Illinois, USA)
Ph.D.  Applied Ethology, (University of Illinois, USA)


After completing a M.Sc. Dr. Stookey spent the next five years managing the 1,000 ewe sheep flock and research unit at the University of Illinois. In 1985 Dr. Stookey managed the Swine Research Centre at the University of Illinois and began his work on a Ph.D.. During his Ph.D. program, Dr. Stookey spent one year in Kenya as a member of the Animal Science Department at Edgerton University, Njoro where he taught basic animal science courses. He completed his Ph.D. in 1991 in the field of applied animal behaviour.


Dr. Stookey's research program focuses on the maternal and social behaviour of cattle, swine and sheep, plus the factors that influence handling and temperament in beef cattle. As an applied animal behaviourist he has aimed his research at improving the productivity and welfare in domestic food animals through the application and investigation of the behavioral processes. In addition to his research, Dr. Stookey lectures to the first year veterinary students on basic animal behaviour principles, plus gives presentations to producer organizations.


Dr. Stookey's is a member of the University of Saskatchewan Beef Systems Research Group and more details about his ongoing research program can be found by clicking here.


    "From my perspective, becoming an applied ethologist was like slipping on a pair of my favorite work gloves. I think I may have been born an ethologist. As a young boy growing up on a farm in southern Illinois I rushed through my daily chores so I would have time to strategically place myself in the best position to watch animals. It did not matter to me whether they were pigeons, ducks, chickens, cattle, swine or wildlife that I was watching. I was captivated by their behaviour and most days I naively believed that I was observing and understanding animal behaviour in a way that surely eluded other humans. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered books written on the topic!

    I now focus on the behaviour of farm animals and more and more on animal welfare issues. I grew up performing many of the routine painful procedures we impose upon our farm animals and until I started my Ph.D. at Illinois I never gave animal welfare a second thought. I had always defended and bought the notion that the procedures, like castration, tail-docking and dehorning, represented a small-term pain for a long-term gain. After years of teaching intelligent and inquisitive students, who ask intelligent and piercing questions, it is now obvious to me that the answers are never that simple and the slogans are never that accurate. I believe that the animal welfare issues deserve serious discussions and need serious science. I also believe that the formula for solving animal welfare issues is the same formula required for obtaining high food quality, food safety, biosecurity and for safe guarding the environment. None of these will be obtained by accident. They will always be the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. It is my hope as an applied ethologist that I will help provide intelligent direction to the animal welfare debates and it is my wish that the livestock and poultry industries will always approach animal welfare issues with high intention, sincere effort and skillful execution."



Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, Ph.D.

Research Scientist, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge, AB, Canada

Ph.D.  Applied Ethology (University of Saskatchewan)

    Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein obtained here Ph.D at the University of Saskatchewan in Applied Animal Ethology in 1996. She continued on at the U of S as a postdoctoral fellow for one year following the completion of her degree. Her research focussed on stress assessment in feedlot cattle using behavioural and physiological measures. In 1998 she obtained an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada where her research centered on determining the effects of feeding behaviour on intake and performance in feedlot cattle using radio frequency technology. In October of 1998 she accepted a research scientist position with Alberta Agriculture Food and Rural Development in Lethbridge.

    Her research interests include the assessment of management factors (specific feeding regimes and diets, bunk design, animal handling protocols, stocking densities, breed and social dominance) on the feeding behaviour, performance! and stressors in feedlot cattle. Her research is applied and provides leading edge information, training and consultation to feedlot managers, agribusiness and the feedlot industry.

    Karen accepted a position as a research scientist (Beef Welfare and Behaviour) with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in October of 2002 where she continues to focus her research in the areas of stress assessment and feeding behaviour. Karen is currently the Canadian Journal of Animal Science representative (term 2000 -2003) on the Expert Committee on Farm Animal Welfare and Behaviour. She also holds the position as the Western Director for the Canadian Society of Animal Science (term 2002-2005).



Dr. Gerrard Flannigan, D.V.M., M.Sc.


B.Sc.  Wildlife Biology  (University of Guelph)
D.V.M.  (Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph)
M.Sc.  Applied Ethology (University of Saskatchewan)

    After completing his master’s research on the risk factors and prevalence of stereotypies within the Pregnant Mare’s Urine (PMU) industry at WCVM, Gerry completed a behavior residency at Tufts’ School of Veterinary Medicine just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.  Presently, Gerry counsels owners with small animal (dogs and cats) behavior problems at the Carolina Veterinary Specialists splitting his time between Greensboro and Charlotte, North Carolina.

    "Although my major area of interest is small animal clinical behaviour, the scientific approach to the study of behaviour gained at WCVM gave me a strong base that has served me well in a clinical setting.  Understanding normal species-specific behavior is essential if you are going to treat perceived behaviour problems.  In addition, I have taken a much more epidemiological approach to clinical behaviour.”


Sorry, Jon’s photo is presently unavailable.

Dr. Jon M. Watts, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

B.Sc.  Psychology (Hull University, UK)
M.Sc.  Biological Anthropology (Durham University, UK)
Ph.D.  Applied Ethology (University of Saskatchewan, Canada)

    While a psychology undergrad Jon's original plan to make himself employable as a corporate personnel manager was corrupted by an increasing fascination with animal behaviour and cognition. By the time he finished his bachelor's degree programme, he had logged more time observing sheep and pigs than humans! For his master's degree he studied handedness and laterality in several species of marmosets and tamarins. He obtained his Ph.D. in Applied Ethology with a study of vocal behaviour and welfare in cattle. At present, Jon is a postdoctoral fellow with the WCVM behaviour group, studying social cognition in dairy calves.

    "Farm animals make excellent subjects for many kinds of behavioural studies. These studies can also make an important contribution to improving their welfare and management. I am particularly interested in cognition and social behaviour. In other words, how they see the world, how they think and how they interact with other members of their kind. To understand what makes them tick in this way is of fundamental importance if we are to understand how to treat them better."



Ms. Jean L. Clavelle, M.Sc.

B.Sc.  Agriculture  (University of Saskatchewan)
M.Sc.  Applied Ethology (University of Saskatchewan)


    For her degree Jean studied the behaviour known as buller steer syndrome. More information about her research findings is available on the WCVM Reports and Articles section of this website. For any additional information about her research and what she's up to now please contact Jean by e-mail.


Dr. Derek B. Haley, Ph.D.,

Assistant Professor, Applied Ethology

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

B.H.K.  Applied Kinesiology (University of Windsor, Canada)
M.Sc  Applied Ethology (University of Guelph, Canada)
Ph.D.   Applied Ethology (University of Saskatchewan, Canada)





    Derek’s Ph.D. involved studies on behavioural aspects of weaning stress in cattle. He came to the WCVM from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lennoxville, Quebec where he worked on the behaviour and welfare of dairy cattle with Dr. Anne Marie de Passillé & Dr. Jeff Rushen. Derek also has an M.Sc. in Applied Ethology from the University of Guelph where he worked with Dr. Ian Duncan. Derek is  currently employed as the Leader of the Livestock Welfare Section with Alberta Agriculture & Food and he serves as the Communications Officer for the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE). Contact Derek by e-mail.

    "I’ve always found watching animals fascinating and have always been interested in parent-offspring behaviour. The way we abruptly wean so many of our domestic animals is quite artificial. With cattle, imposed weaning dramatically disrupts the normal behaviour of cows and calves for several days. They get restless, call repeatedly, spend less time eating and pace the fencelines in attempt to reunite. Many newly weaned calves also fall sick just shortly after weaning. This is certainly an animal welfare issue. My research has focused on factors that affect cattle's response to imposed weaning and along the way we have made an incredible discovery -- a two-stage weaning procedure that virtually eliminates the changes in behaviour associated with traditional, abrupt weaning."


Dr. Thomas Sebastian, B.V.Sc. & A.H.


M.Sc. Student

Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry

Veterinary College, Kerala Agricultural University, Kerala India


“The best doctor in the world is a veterinarian. He can not ask his patients what is the matter-he’s got to know.”  -------- Will Rogers


Born as the youngest son of a rural farmer in India, Thomas’ life has been intrinsically intertwined with animals and poultry. He completed a Bachelor degree in veterinary medicine from Veterinary College Mannuthy, Kerala, India in the year 1996. Then he went into practice and worked for 8 years as veterinary surgeon in the department of Animal Husbandry in Kerala. Thomas is now working on the impact of genetics on beef cattle temperament.

Temperament, disposition or mood of the animal can be defined as the way it reacts or 'behaves' in a particular environment. Simply observing without its knowledge from a distance can make subjective assessment of an animal's temperament. Earlier studies have shown that temperament is linked to the production traits such as growth and beef quality. It is difficult to handle animals with poor temperaments in paddocks or yards in commercial systems. Temperament is also shown to be heritable. But temperament is traditionally measured subjectively. This study uses objective tools such as MMD (Movement-measuring-device), strain gauge and Flight speed instrument to measure temperament. This work aims at finding possible correlation between genes and temperament. If we can say beef cattle with ‘these genes’ are wild it will enable us in future to exclude these ‘wild genes’ from the gene pool. So if we can evolve ‘tamer’ beef cattle through selection it will not only ensure animal and handler safety but also reduce production costs. So this project will throw more light on the inheritance of temperament and ultimately help in evolving easily manageable beef cattle. Contact Thomas by e-mail.