Faculty and Research Team

Suzanne Millman, BSc(Agr), PhD
Section Leader - Animal Welfare, College of Veterinary Medicine

Professor Suzanne Millman holds joint appointments in the Veterinary Diagnostic & Production Animal Medicine and Biomedical Sciences departments at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She is an applied ethologist, whose research interests include understanding behavioral responses of animals to states of pain and illness, refining techniques for on-farm animal welfare assessment and identifying practical interventions to enhance animal welfare. Professor Millman coordinates animal welfare instruction within the veterinary professional curriculum and coaches ISU’s animal welfare judging team.  Dr. Millman provides professional outreach services to the community in animal behavior and animal welfare, including the World Animal Health Organization (OIE), HyLine International, United Egg Producers, Iowa Pork Producers Association and Iowa Veterinary Medical Association.

Becky Parsons, MS
Research Associate II
Becky started working in the Welfare Lab in December 2009 and has been involved with and managed several studies throughout the years with the Welfare Lab. These have included: investigating tools to detect and assess lameness in sows, effects of alternative housing designs on laying hen welfare, studying the efficacy of nerve blocking methods and pain management for disbudding in dairy calves, development and launch of Iowa Swine Welfare School, studying methods of euthanasia in swine and small ruminants, low stress handling methods in beef cattle, and looking into the behavior and cognitive abilities in dogs used as a human model of disease for MPS IIIB. Becky is originally from Iowa and attended Kirkwood Community College before transferring to Iowa State University to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology. Near the end of her undergraduate tenure, Becky became interested in research and with the guidance of two faculty members, who would eventually be on her Master’s POS committee, completed two independent research projects before graduating. Becky remained at Iowa State to complete her Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology studying the effects of natural variation in brood size on growth of and the development of the stress response in nestling Tree Swallows.

Jan Shearer, DVM, MSc
Professor - Veterinary Diagnostic & Production Animal Medicine
Dr. Shearer is currently Professor and Extension Veterinarian at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University.  He received his BS degree from Ashland University in 1971, his DVM degree from Ohio State University in 1975, and his MSc in 1981.  His primary research interests include management of lameness and foot care of cattle, issues related to animal welfare of livestock and the influence of housing and environment on animal production.  He serves as a scientific advisor on several boards dedicated to the continued improvement of animal welfare in livestock production including Humane Farm Animal Care, Dean Foods, and Validus.  He is a former Chair of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners Animal Welfare Committee and is currently serving as Chair of the Food Animal Working Group of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Panel on Euthanasia.

Renee Dewell, DVM, MS 
Veterinary Specialist - Center for Food Security and Public Health (CFSPH)
Dr. Reneé Dewell earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Colorado State University. She owned and operated a private mobile, large animal veterinary clinic in for three years. She also completed an internship the Great Plains Veterinary Education Center (GPVEC) under the mentorship of Drs. Gary Rupp and Dee Griffin and worked as a clinical instructor for four years. While at GPVEC, Reneé earned a master’s degree in Veterinary Science (epidemiology emphasis) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and completed the Beef Cattle Production Management Program. Following her completion of her MS, she was a post-doctoral researcher at the Animal Population Health Institute at CSU (focus on applied research in feedlot setting, pre-and post-harvest food safety) and served as a staff veterinarian at Horton Feedlot and Research Center in Wellington, Colorado.  Since joining ISU in 2009, she has worked in the Center for Food Security and Public Health (CFSPH) on topics related to biological risk management for beef cattle as well as disaster preparedness and response issues with production animals. Her primary research responsibilities have focused on cattle handling, practical pain management and production and health management of cattle. Reneé is in the process of completing a Certificate in Animal Welfare through the Cambridge e-learning Institute (United Kingdom, expected completion-May. 2016). Dr. Dewell serves on several committees and leadership roles in the AVC, the AABP, the IVMA, the NIAA, and the AVMA. She enjoys spending time with her three children Caitlin, Nicole, and Nolan.

Annette O'Connor, BVSc, MVSc, DVSc, FACVSc 
Professor - Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine
Dr. O'Connor received a Bachelor of Veterinary Science from the University of Sydney in 1993, a Masters of Veterinary Science from the University of Queensland in 1997, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Science from the University of Guelph in 2001.  In 2009, Dr. O'Connor was admitted as a Fellow of Epidemiology to the Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists. Dr. O'Connor is a Professor of Epidemiology at Iowa State University.  She teaches epidemiology methods and inference in the Preventative Veterinary Medicine Program at Iowa State and the MPH program at the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa.  The main area of focus for Dr. O'Connor's research has been to understand how researchers can use study design and research synthesis methodologies to translate primary research findings into decision support tools for agencies.  Dr. O'Connor has been funded for this work by groups such as USDA, the National Pork Board, and the European Union Food Safety Authority.  Topics evaluated include pre-harvest food safety interventions, post-harvest interventions, zoonotic pathogens, and the impact of proximity to confined animal operations on community health.


Luna KC, MS
Graduate Research Assistant
Luna joined CVM Animal Welfare Lab in Fall 2013 as a graduate student. She is from Kathmandu, Nepal. Luna developed interest in animal welfare while in Denmark working towards her Master’s degree. The broad concept and outcomes of animal welfare made her passionate about this area. Luna interested in understanding the ways by which we can improve and practice humane methods of euthanasia in our food animals. Currently she is working on a project “An Examination of argon gas for on-farm anesthesia and euthanasia of livestock”. In this project, Luna is utilizing conditioned place preference and approach avoidance paradigms to explore pigs’ responses to exposure to and induction of insensibility with carbon dioxide and argon gas.

Amila Bandara, BSc, M.Phil
Visiting Scholar
Amila completed her B.Sc. degree in Agricultural Sciences (specialization in Livestock Production) in Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka. She started her career as an academic staff member at the same university, and has eleven years of teaching experience in various courses of livestock management for undergraduate students. During her academic position, she was involved in research - particularly in poultry, rabbit, and dairy cattle production - and gave authorship for several publications. With a long-term interest in livestock production, she completed her M.Phil degree, focusing on the weaning stress of rabbits based on behavior and stress physiology, and developed a passion for reducing pain and distress in animals. Amila found a perfect way to combine her passion with her PhD degree in on-farm euthanasia of poultry, which gives her a better chance to further study of pain and distress explained by neurophysiology. She started her PhD in 2015 at the University of Guelph, Canada, focusing on the efficacy of different on-farm euthanasia techniques across North America, and established science-based recommendations on best practices to ensure euthanasia devices are humane, effective, and pose minimal threat to the operators. Amila joined CVM Animal Welfare Lab in in fall 2017 as a Visiting Scholar to study CO2 gas as a possible on-farm euthanasia technique for poultry. In this project, Amila is utilizing conditioned place preference and approach avoidance paradigms to explore turkeys’ and layer chickens’ responses to exposure to and induction of insensibility with carbon dioxide.

Maddison Tyrrel, BS
Research Assistant
Member of Collegiate Animal Welfare Judging Team
Maddison became part of the welfare laboratory fall of 2014, and since then has been working on a variety of projects. Some of the projects she has been involved with would include: swine and small ruminant euthanasia methods, acclimation and low stress cattle handling, and small ruminant disbudding trials. In the fall of 2016, Maddison started her journey in the world of collegiate animal welfare judging contests competing as an undergraduate and currently as a veterinary student. Maddison received her Bachelors of Science from Iowa State University with a major in animal science. Maddison believes that her passion for animal welfare will provide a great asset to her veterinary career path.

Jessica Anderson, BA
Research Assistant
Animal Welfare Club President
Jessica joined the CVM Animal Welfare Lab in Fall 2017 as an Iowa State Summer Scholars Student. She is a second year veterinary student at Iowa State and is currently the Animal Welfare Club President for the school.  Jessica became interested in animal welfare at her undergraduate institution where she studied how tailbiting compromises the health, growth, and welfare of growing-finishing pigs. Currently, Jessica is working with Dr. Still-Brooks and Dr. Millman on a project evaluating the behavioral responses for several alternative methods of disbudding in dairy goat kids.


Anna Johnson, PhD
Section Leader - Animal Welfare, Department of Animal Science
Associate Professor

Dr. Johnson earned her BS in Animal Science from Reading University, a Master's in Applied Animal Behavior and Animal Welfare from the University of Edinburgh, and her Doctorate degree in Animal Welfare from Texas Tech University in 2001.  Dr. Johnson's current focus at Iowa State University is working in (1) finisher pig transportation, with the aim of reducing the incidence of fatigued, injured, and dead pigs, (2) temporal drinking behavioral patterns of nursery pigs to help swine veterinarians and producers know when the best time of day is to provide oral Ileitis vaccine, and (3) on sow productive lifetime with an emphasis on the sows behavioral repertoire, gait and motion with Drs. Locke Karriker and Kenneth Stalder.  Dr. Johnson is active in the International Society for Applied Ethology and the American Society for Animal Scientists, and she serves on the Pork Checkoff's Animal Welfare Committee.  In addition, Dr. Johnson provides extension services for commodity groups pertaining to animal welfare issues.  Prior to joining ISU, Dr. Johnson was Director of Animal Welfare for the National Pork Board.  She developed and implemented Checkoff-funded animal welfare and welfare-related research within the Science & Technology Department.  Dr. Johnson was instrumental in the formulation and launch of the Swine Welfare Assurance Program.