Behavior and Animal Welfare

Melissa Bain, DVM, MS

VMTH: Clinical Animal Behavior Service

Vet Med: Medicine & Epidemiology

I am an Associate Professor of Clinical Animal Behavior in the Clinical Animal Behavior Service. My areas of interest include aspects of companion animal behavior, and welfare. Specific interest include: prevention and treatment of behavior problems in companion animals, including the use of behavioral modification and psychotrophic medications; client compliance, especially as it relates to the treatment of behavioral problems; dog parks; other areas of human-animal bond research, including owner attachment; and areas of animal welfare, primarily related to behavior. I am open to ideas for research in most areas of behavior and the human-animal bond. Previous STAR projects include: effect of exercise and food restriction on weight loss in cats; reasons for relinquishment of dogs to shelters in relation to behavior and training; effect of food enrichment in rhinos kept in zoos; effect of enrichment and hiding boxes on behavioral scores of cats in shelters; and the relationship between owner attachment and the term "guardian".

Please visit Dr. Bain's website for more information.

Melanie Gareau, Ph.D.

Microbiota-gut-brain axis

VM: Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

(See also: GI/Gastroenterology, Immunology and Neurology)

Dr. Gareau is a physiologist primarily interested in studying the microbiota-gut-brain axis. It is increasingly being recognized that the microbes that live the gastrointestinal tract, collectively referred to as the intestinal microbiota, can contribute to modulating cognition and mood. The research focus of her laboratory is in determining how manipulating the microbiota within the gut, using models of infection with bacterial pathogens or administration of beneficial probiotic bacteria, can change cognitive function, anxiety, and depression-like behaviors in mouse models of disease. Dr. Gareau has a particular interest in how the microbiota-gut-brain axis responds to stimulation with psychological stressors and under conditions of intestinal inflammation, such as in models of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ongoing projects in the laboratory include studying behavior in mouse models of IBD and following pathogenic E. coli infection.

If interested, please contact Dr. Gareau:

Brenda McCowan, PhD

VM: Population Health and Reproduction, California National Primate Research Center

Building on principles of evolutionary theory and animal behavior, the goal of our research group is to apply current understanding of animal behavior to animal welfare, management and conservation issues, while continuing to expand on this knowledge base. Applied research includes the use of bioacoustics as a conservation and management tool, effects of anthropogenic noise on wildlife behavior and communication, effects of social behavior on disease transmission in livestock and wildlife and the use of complexity theory and mathematical modeling as a social management tool for captive exotics, wildlife, laboratory animals and domesticated species.

Please visit Dr. McCowan's website at:

Liz Stelow, DVM, DACVB

VMTH Behavior Service

Research interests: Companion Animal Behavior and Welfare

The Behavior Service does research on many aspects of companion animal behavior, welfare, and the human-animal bond. Current studies involve the role of environmental stressors and personality on the development of urolithiasis in cats and the transition of singly-housed colony Orange Winged Amazon (OWA) parrots into a co-housing setting.

The best opportunity for a STAR project is within the OWA study. Recent laboratory animal housing guidelines are driving the changes in housing for these birds and little existing research is available to educate the transition process. Those factors make this a groundbreaking research project, several aspects of which could be tailored to a stand-alone STAR project for the right student.

Other student-proposed research ideas in the area of animal behavior will be considered individually.

Please contact Dr. Stelow at