Research

Animal and Avian Sciences Research

Research in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences is focused on four core areas:

These areas interact in an interdisciplinary manner, thereby fostering scientific collaborations among research groups. As such, the Department’s research programs extend beyond traditional areas of animal science and include investigation into the molecular, cellular and biochemical basis of animal reproduction and development.

Research Areas

Genetics & Cell Biology

Faculty in our Genetics and Cell Biology Group investigate the genetic basis for animal growth, disease resistance, and nutrient efficiency, and the mechanisms underlying nutrient uptake, cellular differentiation, and lipid secretion.

More on Genetics & Cell Biology

Faculty in our Genetics and Cell Biology Group investigate the genetic basis for animal growth, disease resistance, and nutrient efficiency, and the mechanisms underlying nutrient uptake, cellular differentiation, and lipid secretion. 

General Goals

  • Define the genetic basis for animal growth, disease resistance, embryonic development, stem cell specification and nutrient efficiency.
  • Elucidate the cellular mechanisms underlying nutrient uptake, cellular differentiation, host-pathogen response, and lipid secretion.
  • Integrate quantitative, statistical, and computational parameters at the molecular, cellular, genome, and metagenome levels.

Focus

The primary thrust of the Genetics and Cell Biology Group is to illuminate the molecular and cellular basis of complex biological systems using a multi-organismal and multi-faceted approach. The group comprises faculty that span across multiple disciplines with research focuses in basic and translational research and with implications for animal health and diseases and the environment. Key problems being addressed by this group include the following:

  • Nutrient-gene interactions that influence nutrient partitioning
  • Cell biology and genetics of nutrient homeostasis
  • Molecular basis for the maintenance of pluripotency and cell lineage determination
  • Molecular dynamics of lipid secretion
  • Genetics and endocrine regulation of growth and metabolism
  • Statistical genomics, bioinformatics and gene regulatory networks
  • Developmental biology, embryonic patterning, and cell migration
  • Molecular mechanisms of protective memory in mucosal infections
  • Interactions between nutrition and the immune system
  • Selection theory and quantitative genetics 

Research Impact

  • Animal health and development
  • Chesapeake Bay Preservation
  • Zoonotic diseases and Prevention

Nutrient Utilization & Metabolism

Faculty in our Nutrient Utilization and Metabolism Group study the uptake, transport and fate of nutrients in animals, the nutritional requirements of animals, and procedures for minimizing nutrient loss to the environment.

More on Nutrient Utilization & Metabolism

Faculty in our Nutrient Utilization and Metabolism Group study the uptake, transport and fate of nutrients in animals, the nutritional requirements of animals, and procedures for minimizing nutrient loss to the environment.

General Goal

  • Establish the basic mechanisms that limit feed digestion and utilization by dairy and beef cattle, poultry, horses, and exotic animals.
  • Identify nutritional strategies that improve meat and milk quality, and animal health.
  • Delineate the molecular and metabolic processes that govern the partition of dietary nutrients towards tissue, milk and egg synthesis.
  • Develop and implement feeding guidelines and management practices that reduce animal waste pollution in the environment and improve animal productivity.
  • Study animal digestion as a model to understand biomass conversion to biofuels or bioproducts.

Focus

The Nutrient Utilization and Metabolism faculty possess expertise in both basic and applied research approaches to systemically address important nutritional issues facing animal agriculture at the local, state and national levels. Key issues being addressed by this group include the following:

  • Optimization of dietary energy, nitrogen and phosphorus use by ruminants and poultry to decrease impacts on the environment.
  • Improve survival and growth of chicken embryos and post-hatch chicks.
  • Develop mathematical models of whole-animal nutrient utilization for research investigation and to improve predictions of animal performance.
  • Nutrient-gene interactions that affect milk composition.
  • Reduce methane emissions by ruminants.
  • Utilization of traditional and novel forages by horses and beef cattle.
  • Establish best feeding practices for insectivorous birds.

Research Impacts

  • Producers and consumers of dairy and poultry products.
  • Horse owners and farm operators.
  • Companion and zoological animal nutrition and health.
  • Efficiency of use of feed resources.
  • Human nutrition and health.
  • Chesapeake Bay preservation.
  • Environmental footprint of animal agriculture.

Pathobiology & Infectious Diseases

The major task for this pathogen-host interacting group is to decipher how hosts launch efficient immunity against infections, thus information obtained will be useful for the development of vaccine and control of infectious diseases. This group include faculty with expertise covering multiple disciplines in both basic and translational research.

More on Pathobiology & Infectious Diseases

Faculty in our Pathobiology & Infectious Diseases Group study... 

General Goals

  • Elucidate molecular mechanisms for the activation of cellular immune responses during viral and bacterial infections.
  • Define host epigenetic modifications during infections.
  • The study of epigenetics and beef quality.
  • Develop vaccines against animal infectious diseases using integrated strategies.
  • Identify new pathways involved in host response against pathogen using integrated quantitative, statistical and computational approaches.

Focus

The major task for this pathogen-host interacting group is to decipher how hosts launch efficient immunity against infections, thus information obtained will be useful for the development of vaccine and control of infectious diseases. This group include faculty with expertise covering multiple disciplines in both basic and translational research. Key projects including the following:

  • Regulation of inflammatory cytokines on memory CD8 T cell generation.
  • Interaction of metabolic pathways with those of inflammatory cytokines in CD8 T cell activation.
  • Regulation of CD8 T cell responses by cigarette smoking.
  • CD8 T cell activation under malnutrition.
  • Development of cross-protective vaccine against swine influenza.
  • Epigenetic study of chicken response in Marek’s disease virus infection.
  • Dynamic mechanism of host-virus interaction.
  • Epigenetics of CD4+ T cell and CD8+ T cell in response to virus infection.
  • Beef quality and epigenetics.
  • Computational epigenetics and statistical genomics in animal health.
  • Construction of a novel vaccine of animal against the colonization of foodborne bacterial pathogens.
  • Development of monoclonal antibody for quick detection and identification of foodborne pathogens.
  • Control of foodborne bacterial colonization in animals using natural products and mechanism of antimicrobial activity of the components.
  • Prevention of cross contamination in food and products in processing and preservation.

Research Impact

  • Animal and human health
  • Zoonotic diseases and prevention

Reproduction & Development

The Reproduction and Development faculty possess a wide range of scientific expertise that, in many instances, spans multiple core research areas. Through both basic and applied research, our faculty continues to make important contributions to the fields of animal agriculture and the biomedical sciences. Key questions being addressed by this group include the following.

More on Reproduction & Development

Faculty in our Reproduction and Development Group study gamete preservation, embryonic development, growth biology, and effects of the environment on reproduction. 

General Goals

  • Delineate the molecular and cellular basis of embryonic patterning and cellular differentiation during animal development.
  • Refine methods to produce genetically modified livestock through an understanding of gamete development and preservation.

Focus

The Reproduction and Development faculty possess a wide range of scientific expertise that, in many instances, spans multiple core research areas. Through both basic and applied research, our faculty continues to make important contributions to the fields of animal agriculture and the biomedical sciences. Key questions being addressed by this group include the following:

  • Etiology of implantation failure and early pregnancy loss through an understanding of placental development
  • Development of self-renewing, pluripotent cell lines
  • Reproductive physiology and cryobiology
  • Signaling pathways and gene expression regulating neural crest induction, migration and differentiation
  • Molecular, cellular and genetic regulation of animal growth and reproduction by the neuroendocrine system
  • Brain-pituitary-gonadal axis regulation of reproduction

Research Impacts

  • Cattle, sheep, bird, and fish producers
  • Human health and development