Affiliate Members of the CENTAUR Team

Luciana Bergamasco, DVM, PhD

Instructor, Animal Behavior and Welfare Group
Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences

lucianab@vt.edu | (540) 231-9998

Focusing her research on companion animal neurophysiology and neurological diseases, Dr. Bergamasco has been involved in several research projects in Switzerland at the University of Bern and in other studies in collaboration with the Section of Clinical Animal Neurology of Helsinki University in Finland, and with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture Academy of Wroclaw in Poland. Dr. Bergamasco has also been involved in research projects on the neurophysiology of behavior in companion and farm animals, as well as welfare of shelter dogs.

Her teaching activity has included core courses on veterinary physiology as well as courses on neurophysiology of behavior and behavioral endocrinology. She currently teaches several classes on companion animals, animal behavior, and welfare.

Dr. Bergamasco is author of more than one hundred publications; reviewer of scientific journals such as Physiology and Behavior, Journal of Animal Science, and Journal of Applied Animal Welfare; and she has served in several professional workshops and community educational events on companion animal behavior and welfare.

Erica N. Feuerbacher, PhD, CPDT-KA, BCBA-D

Assistant professor, Animal Behavior and Welfare Group

Department of Animal and Poultry Science

enf007@vt.edu | (540) 231-1393

Dr. Erica N. Feuerbacher

Dr. Feuerbacher teaches, researches, and conducts extension activities relating to domestic animal behavior and welfare. She is trained as an applied animal behaviorist and behavior analyst, focusing mostly on domestic dogs but also working with horses, cats, and other domestic or captive species.

Her research has several dimensions; first, how dogs learn and how to enhance humane training techniques. Second, she investigates which human interactions dogs prefer and how people can use those to enhance their relationship with dogs and training techniques. Third, she is interested in identifying effective predictors of and treatment techniques for behavioral issues, such as separation anxiety. Finally, she studies shelter dog welfare and what interventions improve welfare and adoptions, including different types of fostering.

Feuerbacher is a co-founder of the Institute for Shelter Dogs and her extension work helps shelters implement science-based interventions, improve shelter dog behavior, and improve organizational interactions. Through her extension appointment, she works with the public, owners, and other trainers to learn more about domestic animal behavior, how to read their animals’ body language, and how to help their animal behave in more desirable ways.

Visit Dr. Feuerbacher's website.

Leonie Jacobs

Assistant professor, Animal Behavior and Welfare Group Department of Animal and Poultry Science

jacobsl@vt.edu | (540) 231-4735

Dr. Leonie Jacobs

Dr. Jacobs is interested in the human-animal interactions related to animal production, including training efficacy, industry stakeholder perceptions and consumer behavior. Her work is characterized by applied research and extension, looking into practical solutions for issues the industry is dealing with, including sharing knowledge and translating scientific research into applicable tools.

Jacobs' field of study, production animal welfare, includes human-animal interactions and is applicable to interdisciplinary topics such as sustainability and one health. Her research and extension appointment allows her to be involved with discovery and engagement related to human-animal relationships, while her teaching focuses on animal welfare. She co-teaches an APSC course on animal welfare and bioethics (APSC3334) while also developing a 4000-level course on animal welfare assessments, partly as preparation or students to compete in the intercollegiate AVMA animal welfare judging competition.

Focused on multifaceted aspects of production animal welfare, the objective of Jacobs' work is to improve the welfare status of these animals through management, education, and training. Though not limited to species or production phase, most of her work is aimed towards broiler chickens and turkeys during production and at time of killing (either euthanasia or pre-slaughter phase).

Paula M. Mercadante, DVM

Academic and Student Support Advisor
Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences

pmercadante@vt.edu | (540) 231-8750

Dr. Paula Mercadante

Dr. Mercadante has a DVM and MS in Animal Molecular and Cellular Biology, and an MS in Agribusiness. She has experience with large animals, specifically in working as a consultant with dairy cows and, later, as a market developer in the industry. Currently she is an Academic and Student Advisor while pursuing a PhD in Animal and Poultry Sciences.

As Student Advisor she guides the Animal and Poultry Sciences undergraduate students for academic excellency, also mentoring them to achieve their full potential and readiness for life after college. Her research investigates the human-animal interaction and its effects on animal behavior and neurophysiology, focusing mostly on domestic dogs but also looking at mice as a model for neurological activities.

Amy Nelson

Associate professor, Department of History
College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

anelson@vt.edu | (540) 231-8369

Dr. Amy Nelson

Dr. Nelson, a historian of modern Russia, has been working in the interdisciplinary field of animal studies (sometimes called “human-animal studies”) since the field’s inception at the turn of the century. She is interested in collaborative projects that situate human-animal interactions in broader social or historical contexts using methodologies from the humanities and social sciences as well as ethology and evolutionary biology.

Her interest in how animals have helped shape human histories has led her to pursue a range of projects, from studies of the emergence of animal advocacy groups in Imperial Russia to pet-keeping practices in the Soviet period and, more recently, a collective biography of the dogs used by the Soviets to develop the manned spaceflight program. She has published extensively on these topics and is the editor of Other Animals: Beyond the Human in Russian Culture and History (Pittsburgh, 2010).

An advocate of learner-centered and open pedagogies, Nelson developed an undergraduate seminar on Deep History and Domestication for the University Honors program in 2013.

Visit Dr. Nelson's website.

Annie Pearce, LEED AP, CPD

Associate professor, Department of Building Construction
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

apearce@vt.edu | (540) 231-7732

Dr. Pearce's primary interests include the sustainability of the built environment and creating bioinclusive environments that promote synergy between and among humans and non-human species. Her research focuses on the design, construction, and rehabilitation of buildings and neighborhoods to promote bioinclusivity and better understand the effects of built environment features on humans and their companion species.

Together with Dr. Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, she is the co-instructor of the BioBuild Studio, an interdisciplinary graduate class exploring the features and functions critical to the success of bioinclusive environments. Her latest research explores heuristics for arrangement and configuration of existing shelter spaces to minimize acoustic stress for animal and human occupants of the space.

She also facilitates service learning pedagogy to enhance bioinclusivity in the built environment, including the construction of winter shelters and feeding stations for feral cats and kennel enrichment for dogs, design and construction of a new building for colony cat housing at a local animal shelter, and the design and construction of a dog run and outdoor classroom for training beagles at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.