Behavior and Animal Welfare

Melissa Bain, DVM, MS

VMTH: Clinical Animal Behavior Service

Vet Med: Medicine & Epidemiology

I am a 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.

Melissa D. Bauman, PhD

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine
California National Primate Research Center
UC Davis MIND Institute

(See also: Neurobiology/Neuroscience)

Dr. Bauman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis Health. Her program of research focuses on prenatal risk factors for neurodevelopmental disorders with the goal of understanding how alterations in the maternal-fetal immune environment may increase the risk for autism and schizophrenia.  Her laboratory uses preclinical animal models to evaluate potential risk factors and explore novel therapeutic interventions for neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disease.  In addition to her research interests, Dr. Bauman is committed to supporting the careers of women in science and medicine and she currently serves as the director of the Women in Medicine and Health Sciences (WIMHS) program at UC Davis Health.

Please email Dr. Bauman for more information at:

Eliza Bliss-Moreau, PhD

Department of Psychology, College of Letters and Sciences

California National Primate Research Center

(See also: Neurology/Neurobiology, Cardiovascular Biology, Immunology/Infectious Disease)

Dr. Bliss-Moreau’s multi-method, multi-level, multi-disciplinary, multi-species research program is focused on understanding the biological mechanisms that generate healthy and unhealthy emotions and social behavior, with the goal of developing new effective treatments and interventions for emotion-related psychopathology and understanding how and why emotions evolved.  Her research program adopts a lifespan approach, primarily studying nonhuman primates from infancy through old age – what the Bliss-Moreau Lab refers to as womb-to-tomb affective science.  The lab works at levels from cellular neurobiology to the study of social systems (and everything in between).  Additionally, the Bliss-Moreau Lab pursues topics related to variation in neural development, both during early development (following viral infection with Zika virus) and in the diseases of old age (namely Alzheimer’s disease).

Dr. Bliss-Moreau can be reached via email at or visit the lab 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