Jacob Brost

Meet Jacob Brost:

A person with short dark hair wearing a grey tshirt and a facemask, has a hen on their shoulder.

About Jacob

Jacob Brost is currently in his first year of a Masters in Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph. After completing two research courses (ANSC*4700 and ANSC*4710) in his Undergrad in Animal Biology at U of G, Jacob found research that interested him and decided to continue in graduate studies. Jacob's thesis project looks to investigate how injuries impact a laying hen's metabolic rate during different activities. Jacob tells us more about his undergraduate and graduate research, the process of applying for and pursuing a master's degree, and his advice for others considering further education!

Why did you decide to pursue further education after completing your undergrad at U of G?

“I believe that the University of Guelph is the school to be at if you have a real interest in animal sciences, specifically the betterment of animal care and welfare. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph in animal biology, I chose this program out of high school because of the prestige Guelph holds as being Ontario’s school for agricultural programs. Throughout my undergrad I wanted to be part of research, I wanted to contribute; primarily I wanted to contribute to research in animal science. I first got the chance to do this when I accepted a URA position with Dr. Harlander and the Harlander Lab. This position transitioned into Dr. Harlander supervising me for my capstone research project (ANSC 4700 & ANSC 4710). Following my graduation I held a USRA position with the Harlander Lab which gave me a chance to kickstart my Master’s work. I chose Guelph because of all of the opportunities I was provided to advance my career and kickstart my research.”

What is your research about?

“During my undergrad in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph I enrolled in the two research courses offered (ANSC 4700 and 4710). In these research courses, I studied the landing velocity of laying hens to understand how they varied with common injuries found in aviaries; injuries like footpad dermatitis, an infection on the plantar region of the foot, and keel bone (breast bone) damage.”

“When hens are housed in aviaries, they become reliant on their wings to slow themselves before landing. Since this is entirely reliant on wing usage rather than legs, it was hypothesized that hens with keel bone damage would have higher landing velocities than healthy hens. We also predicted that hens with footpad dermatitis would have the lowest landing velocity to avoid a high force being applied to their injured foot. This study was completed using 22 hens housed in an aviary at the Arkell Poultry Research Station. 8 hens with keel bone damage, 8 hens with footpad dermatitis, and 6 healthy hens were used. Hens were randomly selected and released from a mark of 30cm until they landed on a force plate. When all trials were completed, the x,y, and z forces were extracted from the force plate and imported on a hen and trial basis into a software (IGORpro) for analysis.”

“The results of the analysis showed that hens with keel bone damage had a higher mean landing velocity than hens with footpad dermatitis and healthy hens. With these results comes the question of whether hens with existing keel bone damage are more likely to have progressively worsening keel bone damage from their high landing velocities. Hens with footpad dermatitis were found to have the lowest landing velocity. Further research into the interaction between landing velocity and both keel bone injury and footpad dermatitis with a larger sample size and from higher heights are needed to investigate if the differences found would reach statistical significance and address the questions these pilot results lead to.”

What's your favourite part about the world of research? What's the most challenging part? 

“Collaboration is easily my favourite part or the world of research. Getting the opportunity to work with people from around the world that are at the top of their field is amazing. Brainstorming to get a job done with these people is fascinating and always end in new ideas and unique approaches.”
“The most challenging aspect of the world of MY research is that it is done with some pretty funny characters. The chickens that I work on often have their own little quirks and personalities which both makes the research fun but can also throw a wrench into the mix. A lot of my research involves training hens to do specific activities, like jumping, and this can be quite difficult but is always rewarding.”

What is it like being in a master’s program? 

“A master’s program is incredibly different from an undergrad. There are still some courses that need to be taken during a master’s program but these courses apply directly to your field of study, or your research which makes it much more engaging. Beyond the courses, a master’s is all time management; it is kind of like juggling a full-time job and part time school. This means you're scheduling meetings, farm visits, project planning, scholarship applications, conferences, and your primary research. This can seem daunting and does have a learning curve, but like anything it comes with time, patience, and perseverance.”

What do you hope to do with your research in the coming years? 

“I really am not sure, firstly I would like to publish my undergraduate research and share it with as many people at as many conferences as possible. After I can put that behind me, I will be focusing on my thesis project which look to investigate how injuries impact a laying hens metabolic rate during different activities. Then I will hopefully have a new paper to tour around and share with anyone willing to listen.”

What do you hope the impact of your research will/can be? 

“I hope my research can further illuminate the extent and seriousness of injuries in our laying hens and equip producers with the necessary tools to improve the lives of their laying hens. The goal is illustrate how these injuries impact the hens as well as the producers in hope that this drives change for the betterment of laying hen welfare.”

Is there anything that has surprised you about your research or yourself, during the master’s program so far? 

“I was surprised to learn how much of my research was off-farm. I always imagined that I would be working hands-on with my hens day in and day out, but the fact is that even though I see them often, I am doing most of my research at a desk. I had thought that the brainstorming, planning, and writing would all be in the curtains when I began data collection, but I could not have been more wrong. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the problem-solving part of the job but sometimes I miss hanging out with my hens.”

What would your advice be to others considering applying to a master’s program?

“My biggest piece of advice is to find something that interests you, look on Experience Guelph for listings of URAs and USRAs that meet that interest, and to apply. Getting into a lab early gives you such an upper hand and really allows you to make the most of your master’s. Being in a lab longer allows for you to form a stronger relationship with your supervisor and colleagues while also giving you the chance to learn how a certain lab works, they’re all very unique. Having this in your back-pocket leads to you being given more responsibilities and getting more time to gain valuable experience.”

Is there anything else you'd like to add? 

“Apply, please apply. If you are considering doing a master’s then apply to positions within labs, apply to URAs and USRAs, or reach out to the professor and ask if they would be willing to take volunteers. The worst, the absolute worst, thing they can say is no but at least you tried. If you don’t apply you are passing up experiences that you could have had, skills that you could have honed, and passions you could have discovered.”