Jennifer Van Os is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Animal Welfare in the Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). The research in her lab at UW-Madison focuses on understanding, evaluating, and improving the welfare of dairy animals from both biological and social perspectives.
Dr. Van Os believes understanding and promoting animal welfare to be an essential part of achieving sustainability in food animal production. To this end, the applied questions in her research program follow these broad themes: (1) understanding the needs of dairy animals from a biological, species- and life-stage-appropriate perspective: what behaviors are important for them to be able to express and what resources do they need? (2) Improving the fit between dairy animals and their environments: how do housing, management, and handling decisions affect cattle behavior, physiology, and production? (3) How do we evaluate animal welfare effectively in both research and commercial farm settings? To complement her research program, the goal of Dr. Van Os’ extension program is to promote best practices in management and housing to help the dairy industry adapt as our scientific knowledge about animal welfare continues to grow.
Dr. Van Os earned a B.A. in Psychology in 2004 from Harvard University, where she conducted original research on memory and aging in humans. After gaining 6 years of professional business experience, Dr. Van Os attended graduate school at the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) from 2010-2015 and received her PhD in the interdisciplinary Animal Behavior graduate program. She then conducted postdoctoral research in the Department of Animal Science at UC-Davis in 2016 and in the Animal Welfare Program at the University of British Columbia, Canada in 2017. From 2016-2020, she served as the Communications Officer on the Council for the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE). She joined the faculty at UW-Madison in 2018.