Victoria Asselstine

Role: Conference Bursary Recipient

Department: Animal Biosciences

College: OAC

Conference Attended: 2021 American Society Animal Science and Canadian Society Animal Science Annual Meeting

Location: Louisville, Kentucky (Attending Virtually)

Value: $296

Research Presentation:

My current research looks at identifying structural variants associated with mastitis disease in Holstein dairy cattle. This research is part of the FFT project entitled “Breeding Livestock for Heath and Climate Resilience” (PIs: B. Mallard, A. Cánovas and N. Karrow). These results are one of the final parts of a larger study looking at the underlying genetic mechanisms of mastitis resistance. Mastitis is one of the most challenging and profit-limiting diseases that dairy producers face, this effort is being made to breed cows that are resistant to mastitis. My research investigates genetic markers associated with enhanced immune response, with the goal to reduce the incidence of mastitis infections in bovine. We have identified differentially expressed (DE) gene candidates, DE mRNA isoform candidates and DE long non-coding RNA candidates between healthy and mastitic animals using RNA-sequencing technology. We then used whole genome sequencing to identify new structural variants within these previously found candidates that might have an impact on mastitis resistance in Holstein dairy cows. These results are part of our FFT funded project, and they align with the FFT objective to enhance food and livestock health, as mastitis is a primary concern related to animal health and welfare. In summary, my research has the potential to improve the health, welfare, and the sustainability of dairy herds.

Objectives for Attending:

The ASAS/CSAS conference is a high-level conference that will advance my scientific knowledge through attending presentations on the latest findings across all areas of animal science. My PhD project addresses multiple aspects related to the Food from Thought objectives including health, sustainability, welfare and new and emerging technologies (ie OMICs technologies). This conference will provide me with excellent information and networking opportunities with other scientists from different backgrounds and area of expertise. Given that this conference is virtual this year, networking will be more challenging, however still achievable. In the past, I have had numerous questions regarding my oral presentation, which allows for networking and there is a question period after the virtual presentation. Also, I always include my email on my slides so people are able to reach out after with any questions they may have, allowing for further networking chances. Thus, my first objective for this conference is to network with researchers working in different areas of animal science to gain a fresh perspective on new research. Equally as important is the opportunity to give an oral presentation; I believe public speaking is a critical aspect of graduate school. I have given three oral presentations, all at EAAP (2018, 2019 and 202), and through these previous presentations, I worked on my public speaking as well as addressing audience questions. I am looking forward to presenting at a different conference as this will encourage me to broaden my comfort in different situations. The last objective I have is to learn about different career opportunities in industry as there will be people at this conference looking to potentially hire graduate students. As I near the end of my graduate degree this is something that I believe I will benefit from greatly. To summarize, I feel that both networking and public speaking are critical skills that will benefit me immensely to complete my PhD program and for my future job aspirations in industry.