Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences News

Kitten Training Classes? New Research Suggests Cat Stereotypes Are Just That

Kristyn Shreve, a graduate research fellow in OSU’s Human-Animal Interaction Lab, or HAI Lab, loves cats. She plays with them, talks to them, and, most importantly, studies them. It turns out we know rather little about cat cognition. Science has a lot left to tell us about the best way to communicate with our feline friends, including whether or not they even consider us friends at all. And this is where the research at the HAI Lab comes in. A study they are currently conducting aims to shed some light on the ways in which cats and humans socialize with one another. Not only that, but as part of the study, free kitten-training classes are given, providing a foundation for communication between owners and cats. This is research that has not been done before, and, looking at the numbers, is sorely needed. 

Read more in the Corvallis Advocate >

Ecology and Hydrology of Western Juniper - OSU Range Field Day 2016

This report features past and ongoing research efforts related to ecological and hydrological relationships found in western juniper woodlands of eastern Oregon. This report is a cooperative effort of the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences at Oregon State University and the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center (EOARC). The EOARC is jointly operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service and by Oregon State University.

To view the report click here:

A Range of Research

from Oregon's Agricultural Progress magazine, by Tiffany Woods

Keith Nantz sees himself like this in a few years: Sitting on a horse watching cows and fat calves as they munch on tall grass on his property. Elk graze nearby; wild turkeys strut by with their young; and a creek with clean water meanders past aspens and pines.

For now, though, he’s looking at acres of weeds and a creek-side fence that needs repair. Nantz wants to maximize the number of cattle grazing on this land but in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. To help him do that, he has invited Oregon State University researchers to his 600 acres near Dufur, just east of Mount Hood, where the hills are a checkerboard of golden wheat fields and green patches of cherry trees.

As his border collies yip down at the creek, Nantz and the researchers stand surrounded by abandoned irrigation pipe and a rusty, old truck. There’s lots of finger tapping as they ponder how to design a study to measure the cattle’s effect on plants, soil, and water.

Nantz’s ranch is a small part of what Carlos Ochoa hopes will be a larger 10- to 20-year study in central and eastern Oregon to better understand how grazing, farming, wildlife, timber harvesting, and even the natural environment affect the quality and quantity of water in creeks. An OSU rangeland scientist who specializes in hydrology, Ochoa wants to know how shade from trees influences the water temperature. How much water do the trees suck up? How does irrigation water that seeps into the soil change the temperature of a stream?

All across the state, OSU’s rangeland scientists are seeking answers to such questions, to help inform policy, boost ranchers’ profits, and strengthen rural economies. They are wading in streams, trekking up hillsides, and scrutinizing everything in between in an effort to restore native vegetation, minimize the impact of wildfires, fight invasive weeds, and keep eastern Oregon watersheds healthy.

After stopping by Nantz’s spread, Ochoa visited Hatfield’s High Desert Ranch near Brothers. There he’s studying the movement of water down two sloping watersheds, where, in 2006, one side was virtually cleared of water-hogging juniper trees and the other side was left wooded. Flow has increased on the side where the trees were cut, and the spring there flows longer into the season. Ochoa is examining the complex relationship between surface and groundwater, and the presence or absence of juniper and other vegetation.

Lesley Morris, a historical ecologist at OSU, is looking at changes from the more distant past. She is studying the footprint left by long-ago farming and restoration efforts to help regulators set appropriate goals for managing land that was altered by previous uses. “We may not be able to go into old farmland and plant native species and expect them to grow the way they would in a non-cultivated area,” she says. “What we can expect from those sites might need to change.”

One of Morris’s study sites is the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in remote northeastern Oregon, home of the deepest river gorge in North America. “It is truly a wicked landscape,” she says. Tenacious homesteaders plowed the land and grazed livestock on terraces along the canyon’s slopes. Morris and graduate student Samantha Pack have dug up records for 52 homesteads and mapped them. They are comparing current vegetation with data from 1981 to document changes in the plant communities. And they have noticed an increase in Ventenata dubia, a weed that is now invading other parts of Oregon, notably the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range near La Grande, where Morris is tracking how it spreads over time.

In another study, Morris is investigating how plant communities in Malheur County are faring after sagebrush was plowed under and more than 250,000 acres were seeded with crested wheatgrass, a non-native perennial grass. This was common practice in the 1960s and ’70s, to increase forage for livestock. Morris is measuring how long it has taken for the sagebrush and native grasses to return, if at all, and whether the altered landscape serves as habitat for sage-grouse.

Malheur County is also where OSU’s Sergio Arispe has begun a 6-year study of how grazing affects vegetation that sprouted after a wildfire scorched thousands of acres there in 2012. As part of the project, Arispe will analyze nutrient levels in the plants to determine how much grazing by wildlife and livestock the land can sustain and remain healthy.

Dustin Johnson is thinking about healthy land, too. Johnson, the co-lead at OSU Extension’s Harney County office, is testing ways to revegetate rangeland that’s been overtaken by medusahead so that the land can be used for grazing and wildlife habitat. Among his strategies is to use natural wildfires to fight medusahead; he found that early summer wildfires followed by seeding perennial grasses in the fall limited the weed’s return.

Johnson is also battling weeds at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where reed canarygrass is choking out native plants and growing too densely to provide habitat for small mammals and birds. He’s testing whether cattle grazing and haying can improve the habitat value of areas invaded by the aggressive grass.

OSU’s Ricardo Mata-Gonzalez knows about aggressive grasses. He’s studying factors that affect their survival at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, where invasive weeds are muscling out the native grasses. Working in collaboration with the National Park Service, he found that the most robust stands of native bunchgrass grow on steep, north-facing slopes at higher elevations. By knowing this, park authorities can make these slopes a priority for protection in their management plans, he says.

Mata-Gonzalez is also interested in how human use of water might conflict with plants’ needs. “If people use groundwater for homes and agriculture, how much are we impacting rangeland vegetation?” he asks. To answer this, he grew three common rangeland grasses in a greenhouse on campus. All three favored surface water over groundwater, but some were more dependent on surface water, suggesting to Mata-Gonzalez that these grasses would suffer less if there were a shortage of groundwater.

Mata-Gonzalez will go to any length, it seems, to study the relationship between cattle and sagebrush, the habitat vital for sage-grouse. He wants to know how much sagebrush cattle eat, but where to begin? He tested a technique that looks for a plant’s genetic markers in cattle manure. He and a graduate student fed steers different amounts of sagebrush and then had the glamorous job of collecting the cowpats. “They had to be fresh, so we did it very early in the morning,” he says. The method accurately detected the percentages of sagebrush. Mata-Gonzalez also found that the cattle gained the most weight when 5 to 6 percent of their diets consisted of sagebrush; a diet of 9 percent caused them to lose weight.

Back at Nantz’s property, the meeting with Carlos Ochoa is wrapping up. As Nantz takes notes on a clipboard, Ochoa says he’ll run the day’s ideas past other researchers to draw up a plan of action. Nantz tosses the clipboard into his truck, loads up his dogs, and says farewell. He’s one step closer to sitting on that horse, watching his cattle get fat.

Finishing Touches Complete on OATF

The finishing touches are complete on the Oldfield Animal Teaching Facility located at the corner of 35th Street and Campus Way.  A western-themed gate has been added to the loft in the OATF to help provide security and provide appropriate signage for the new facility.  Wade Skinner, of Western Art Studio in Junction City, Oregon, designed the gate.

Sheep Barn lamb survives via backpack, goes viral on Internet


Here’s the thing about the Internet: It loves cute stuff.

When a picture of a lamb in a backpack popped up on Twitter last Thursday, the Internet did what it does best: made it viral.

That picture, however, was quite familiar to fourth-year Oregon State Animal Sciences student Kaylyn Gillespie, who was notified of her online appearance by a friend. By that time, the photo was everywhere, eventually advancing to the front page of Reddit.

It has been viewed 1.2 million times.

This was the original image.









This was the original photo, taken at a coffee shop on campus.

When she saw the picture, Kaylyn was a little “creeped out” at first. After all, somebody had taken a photo of her, without her knowledge, and put it on the Internet.

“I wan’t sure what to think at first, but then I saw what was happening to it,” she said.

Thanks to the original poster, @Leyz_Magana, on Twitter, it became an instant classic.

“I saw a goat in the girls bag and I laughed so hard I took the pic! Idk if she (knew I) took a pic or not but I wanted to post it on twitter,” Magana said in a direct message to the university.

That goat was, in fact, a sheep. And that sheep was named Mr. Freeze. The photo ascended to the No. 1 spot on Reddit, a popular social media forum where users can up vote, down vote and comment on content posted. The more up votes an item receives, the higher it goes on the site. Front page items are rare, only rewarded for the massively popular. For Mr. Freeze, well, his rise to fame was instant. On Reddit, Facebook and Twitter, comments and questions mounted as to why on Earth somebody would be carrying around a “goat” in a backpack.

Watching it all unfold on Reddit, Kaylyn made a username, revealed herself as the lamb’s caretaker and told her story to the online community.

Her first post:

Pretty neat, huh? Turns out Mr. Freeze was born in the Oregon State Sheep Barn managed by Mary Meaker, who brings in volunteers to serve as a “Lambing Crew” during lambing season. The volunteers, some from the Oregon State Sheep Club, take shifts each day and night (yes, all night — Kaylyn’s is from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.) to make sure lambing mothers and newborns stay healthy, among other things.

Kaylyn posted 40+ comments on the Reddit thread, answering all and any questions, including if Mr. Freeze does his business in her backpack. In fact, Kaylyn took it upon herself to scrounge the baby isle of the grocery store for diapers that fit. Then she took Mr. Freeze to class. To keep him warm, she had to.

“My teachers are great,” she said. “I just took him to class and he was actually very quiet.”











Out and about, Mr. Freeze is a celebrity. Kaylyn rarely walks through campus without being stopped by somebody asking for a picture, or to just pet the lamb.

It has been a stellar run for the 10-day old Mr. Freeze, ending with great news: he is back with his mother, nursing and healthy.

All thanks to the Oregon State volunteer and veterinarian-to-be, Kaylyn Gillespie.










You can view and read the entire Reddit thread here. And here’s a bunch of photos of Kaylyn and Mr. Freeze.

New OSU study reveals dog's breed and hunting instincts can shape behavior

Researchers at Oregon State University recently published a study that found a dog’s breed can influence how well it responds to human commands.

The study, published in this month’s issue of Animal Behavior, reported that dogs bred for certain predatory traits may be more likely to follow human gestures than dogs lacking the traits.

“The more we know about the predatory behavioral tendencies of dogs, the better we can predict how successful they might be with humans in different home and working environments,” said lead author Monique Udell in an article about the study by Daniel Robison. “This may allow us to make better placement, ownership and training decisions in the future.”

To conduct the study, Udell and fellow researchers tested three breeds that have been used for specific purposes: herding, hunting and guarding livestock.

The researchers tested the dogs by pointing to one of two identical empty cans. If the dog approached the can to which the researcher pointed, the dog would be rewarded with food. Each test was repeated 10 times.

Researchers concluded that each breed acted upon its natural predatory instincts to eye, stalk, chase and consume prey triggered by movement (the human hand pointing) to choose the can.

Border collies, the herding dogs used in the study, chose the correct can in more than 85 percent of the tests, according to the study. The OSU scientists believe the border collies were so successful because they were bred specifically for eye-stalk-chase behavior, hunting traits they likely inherited from wolves.

Airedale terriers also did well in the tests, choosing the correct can 70 percent of the time. The breed tends to respond very well to movement and is driven to follow it, the researchers say.

“These breeds are perceived to have an uncanny ability to read people, like when they anticipate owners taking them for a walk,” says Udell, director of the OSU Human-Animal Interaction Lab and an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Anatolian shepherds, a breed typically used to guard livestock, comprised the third breed in the study. They approached the can that the human pointed to an average of less than 50 percent of the time, choosing it no more often than if by chance.

According to Udell, their behavior is also consistent with their breeding because the dogs were bred to protect, rather than chase, livestock. With additional training, however, the dogs were capable of learning to follow human gestures.

The study indicates that dogs are still capable of learning behaviors to which they are not predisposed, but it could take a bit more time and training.

Read the study online here.

--Monique Balas

2014 Department Newsletter

In this issue:

  • Greetings from the "Corner" Office
  • Comings and Goings
  • Awards and Recognition
  • Travels Far and Wide
  • In Memoriam
  • Alumni News
  • Grants
  • Selected Publications
  • Graduate Students

Please click the link below to read the newsletter.

2014 Newsletter.pdf8.15 MB

Dog-Assisted Physical Therapy Research

Recently, the Human-Animal Interaction lab, directed by Dr. Monique Udell, has begun work in collaboration with members of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine (Drs. Wendy Baltzer and Craig Ruaux) and the College of Public Health and Human Sciences (Megan MacDonald) on Dog-Assisted Physical Therapy Research funded through an OSU Division of Health Sciences Interdisciplinary Research Grant. Two undergraduate students, Shelby Wanser (2014 UHC DeLoach Work Scholarship Recipient) and Courtney Kutzler (2014 URSA Engage Recipient) have also been granted awards to begin or continue work on the human-animal interaction component of this project, supervised by Dr. Udell, throughout 2014.

Happy Holidays from Dr. Killefer

Let It Snow?  Let It Snow?  Let It Snow?

It is that time of year again when we have the occasion to reflect upon the many happenings of the past year and to think about the opportunities that the upcoming year will present us.  Well it did snow and snow and snow here in Corvallis!  I am told that this is the most snow in two decades, and it stayed around for over a week because of the unusual cold snap that accompanied all the snow.  Finals week was very interesting with the closure of campus and all the rescheduling of examinations that had to occur.  Despite all the efforts of Mother Nature, the students, faculty, staff and administration helped complete this recent Finals Week with minimal confusion and distress.  It has been an exciting time within the Department – where there has been no shortage of change and growth.

In academic year 2013, we had the very first graduates from the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences.  We are now officially the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences with approximately 500 undergraduate majors (largest program on campus for the College of Agricultural Sciences), approximately 60 majors in our program at the Eastern Oregon University campus, and 25 graduate students.  During this past year we had a bumper crop of eleven graduate students complete their programs.  We are proud of them and we wish them all the very best in their continuing education or new careers!  Our academic offerings continue to grow in response to our growing undergraduate numbers (both majors and non-majors taking AnRS courses) and with the addition of new faculty members to the Department.  We have added new courses both on campus and through the online Ecampus program at OSU.  Many of our Ecampus courses are capturing the interest of both majors and non-majors alike, on campus and around the country!

We have had several faculty/staff members leave our ranks this past year through retirements or other career opportunities.  Dr. Douglas Johnson (Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Management) retired after 31 years of joyous service!  He will continue to provide expert advice and wisdom through his Emeritus Professor appointment.  Dr. Aurora Villarroel resigned her position in January to take a job with Merck Animal Health as Global Director of Technical Services in Dairy & Udder Health.  Helen Chesbrough (Office Specialist) retired this Spring after approximately 28 years with us.  She will always be remembered as the friendly voice welcoming you to the Department.  Gabrielle Thompson (Accountant) retired after 30 years keeping track of our finances and helping us manage purchasing and budget questions.  Gabrielle was housed within the Department and more recently within the Agricultural Sciences and Marine Sciences Business Center (AMBC).  Ben Krahn (Dairy Manager), Travis Way (Dairy Herdsman), Tom Nichols (Sheep Center Manager), and Dawn Ross (Horse Center Manager) left our program this year to pursue other job opportunities.  We thank this wonderful group of faculty and staff for the hard work and dedication throughout their careers and wish them all the very best in this new phase of their lives!

In contrast to the numerous folks that have left our day-to-day OSU family, we have a number of new faces amongst our group.  We welcome Dr. Monique Udell to our faculty as an Assistant Professor specializing in the area of Human-Animal Bond.  Dr. Udell adds a new dimension to our program and her teaching/research areas are proving to be of great interest to our students.  Dr. Carlos Ochoa joined our faculty as an Assistant Professor specializing in the Riparian-Watershed field.  Carlos is already proving to be a tremendous addition to our teaching and research efforts in hydrology and watershed management.  We also welcome Dr. Lesley Morris to our faculty as an Assistant Professor in Rangeland Ecology and Management specializing in the current impacts of historical land use practices.  Dr. Morris is located on the Eastern Oregon University campus in La Grande.  In addition to these tenure track faculty members, we also welcomed Pat Shaver and Adrienne Lulay as instructors to the Department.  Pat and Adrienne bring a wealth of expertise and enthusiasm to our programs.  All of these faculty members will add strength and dimension to our curriculum and research portfolios.  We welcomed Megan McVicker as the new Barn Manager at the OSU Horse Center and look forward to benefiting from her equine knowledge and experience.  We also welcomed Remington Pike as the new manager of the Soap and Berry Creek Ranches.  Remington has been a long time worker at the ranches and has already made significant improvements to the herd and facilities.  This past Fall we welcomed Kari Henschel back to our group as our new Accountant in the AMBC.  Kari has a long history with the Department and we are excited to have her back amongst our happy family.

This year we continue to see major construction activities at the corner of 35th and Campus Way, where the old sheep barn and wool lab used to be located.  The new James E. Oldfield Animal Teaching Facility (OATF) was completed and just finished its first year as an outstanding teaching facility for the Department.  The OATF represents the first of four new buildings that are part of what are referred to as the Animal Sciences Pavilion Complex.  The Hogg Animal Metabolism Barn (HAMB) broke ground this Fall and we anticipate completion of construction this coming June/July.  The HAMB facility will be an outstanding animal research unit that will accommodate studies ranging from replicated small pen cattle trials to intensive individual animal studies.  This new research facility will be a  tremendous complement to the teaching resources provided by the OATF.  The next two buildings should be breaking ground this upcoming year and will further support the teaching and research missions of the Department and College.  The third building will be a multi-purpose facility that supports the farm services activities of the Department, the teaching activities of the Department of Agricultural Education and Agricultural Sciences, and provide a new data center for the OSU IT infrastructure.  The fourth building will serve as a commodity and composting facility for our activities.  In addition to the construction occurring along Campus Way, we are also renovating four laboratories and associated offices in Weiniger Hall.  Although in a building outside of Withycombe Hall, these will be the nicest, most modern laboratories in the Department.  We look forward to these being completed in early 2014.  The addition of these new facilities for teaching and research coincides with significant increases in undergraduate enrollments and the evolution of our research programs.  Please stop by and take a look the next time you are on campus.

Looking back on 2013 and forward to 2014, there is the reality of much change accompanied with a sense of excitement and anticipation as we face the New Year.  We all look forward to a year filled with many successes and accomplishments.  I hope that each of you is blessed with a Holiday Season that is filled with joy and a sense of fulfillment.  Please stop by when you are on campus, send an email, or give me a call.  I would appreciate the opportunity to say hello.

Wishing you all the best in 2014!

John Killefer

Katie Fast - CAS Distinguished Alumni Luminary Award

Katie is vice president for public policy for the Oregon Farm Bureau. She plays a critical role in Oregon legislative sessions, communicating the value of the statewide public services at Oregon State University (OSU). Beyond this, Katie promotes legislative initiatives across a broad span of natural resource issues. Katie is an excellent source of information for CAS administrators during and between legislative sessions. This is of extreme importance in planning legislative strategy.  One example is her leadership in implementation of policy is Oregon Senate Bill 1010 program for agricultural water quality. Another is leading passage of a bill for funding in our college for research and extension around bee colony collapse.

Katie’s contributions to service are outstanding for an early career professional. She is the current President of the E.R. Jackman Friends and Alumni Board. One of the most influential stakeholder groups for the College and a strong source of support for our students. She is also a frequent mentor for our students pursuing experiential learning as Oregon Farm Bureau governmental affairs interns (six completions to date). Katie consistently promotes the College with legislative and industry groups, much to our benefit.

Katie graduated from OSU in 1998 with a major in Animal Sciences and a minor in Agricultural Business Management. She first worked for the Oregon Cattlemen Association and joined Oregon Farm Bureau in 2003.

Katie received the College of Agricultural Sciences Distinguished Alumni Luminary Award.

Clark Meat Center Store

Hello Patrons!

The Clark Meat Science Center retail store is open Friday afternoons, from 12-5:30 PM.

Today’s products will include the following:

Fresh Sausages:

  • Cheddarwurst- $5.49/lb
  • Bratwurst- $4.99/lb
  • Polish- $4.99/lb
  • Breakfast Sausage (bulk)- $4.99/lb

Cooked/Smoked Product:

  • Hickory-smoked Original Bacon- $7.49/lb
  • Hickory-smoked Peppered Bacon- $7.99/lb
  • Hawaiian-teriyaki Beef Jerky- $21.99/lb (bags ~1/3 pound)
  • Hickory-smoked Original Summer Sausage- $6.49/lb
  • Hickory-smoked Jalapeno-Cheese Summer Sausage- $6.99/lb
  • Hot Sticks- $5.99/lb

Retail Cuts:

  • Beef retail cuts

Beaver Classic Cheese:

  • The Cheddar
  • Smoked Swiss
  • The Swiss
  • The Original

Stay tuned for:

  • Apple-Cranberry Breakfast Sausage
  • Andouille
  • Sicilian Wine and Cheese
  • Hot and Sweet Italian
  • Smoked Pork Loin Chops
  • Ground beef
  • Assorted Pork and Lamb retail cuts

Just a reminder- we now accept cash, check and credit/debit cards.

As always, we’d like to thank you for your continued support of the Clark Meat Science Center, and for making it a place “where great students come to meat!”

We hope to see everyone today, but if we don’t catch you, have a great weekend, and take care!


The Clark Meat Science Center Staff

Past International Researcher Returns to OSU as a Fully Funded Ph.D. Student

Rodrigo da Silva Marques is a current international Ph.D. student at Oregon State University in the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center located in Burns, Oregon. He has been working under Dr. Reinaldo Cooke’s supervision since April 2013. However, Rodrigo’s experience at OSU began back in 2011, when he came as an international visiting scholar to conduct research with Dr. Cooke for 12 months.

In September of 2011, Rodrigo arrived in Oregon following the completion of his M.Sc. degree in Animal Sciences from the Universidade de Sao Paulo – ESALQ (Brazil). During his 12-month internship, Rodrigo helped supervise several research studies which focused on beef cattle production; he participated in field work, laboratory analysis, data interpretation, and publishing research results. Upon the conclusion of his internship, Rodrigo authored and co-authored several journal articles and research abstracts which contributed significantly to his professional and scientific development.

Rodrigo da Silva Marques with cattleAfter returning to Brazil, Rodrigo was awarded a full scholarship from the Brazilian government to return to Oregon State University and pursue a Ph.D. degree. This accomplishment was directly associated with the research experiences that Rodrigo acquired during his initial internship which enriched his resume as well as his academic skills. Rodrigo’s return to OSU as a Ph.D. student fully funded by the Brazilian government is a strong example of one of the many benefits that the Exchange Visitor program brings to OSU students, scholars, faculty members, and departments; thus the entire university system.

To learn more about how the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor program provides countless opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States, please visit:

If you would like to visit with Rodrigo about his research experience through the Exchange Visitor program, and now as a Ph.D. student, he can be reached at: