Melanie Nardone MA Graduate, Anthrozoology

My lifelong interest in advocating for more enlightened treatment of nonhuman animals has inspired an applied approach to research. Two current areas of ongoing exploration have been the genetic engineering of nonhuman animals for human exploitation and assessment of companion animal behaviour in training contexts. In both issues I seek to understand human expectations of animal being and the influence of those perceptions on their manipulation and treatment.

My vested interest in nonhuman animal welfare was fostered through more than twenty years of work as a grassroots advocate of a national non-profit group, The Greyhound Welfare Foundation, in a variety of capacities: as spokesperson, cruelty investigator and lobbyist.

I have a BA from Columbia University (New York, NY) and an MA in Anthrozoology with Distinction from the University of Exeter. Additionally, I pursue teaching of companion dogs using force-free, evidence-based methods through advanced coursework with The Academy for Dog Trainers and maintain a current CPDT-KA certification.

The working title for my PhD is “A Multispecies Negotiation of Disease and Decision-Making During a Novel, Eco-Friendly Genetic Modification Project”. My thesis research will examine the knowledges and processes which will shape interspecies negotiation and decision-making during a proposed ‘eco-friendly’ introduction of genetically modified white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) into an island ecology to address Lyme disease.

Rapid advancements in the development of the genomic editing tool CRISPR have facilitated the growth of novel modification techniques to reduce and/or eliminate vector borne diseases, in this instance, by generating immunity to Lyme disease bacteria through the insertion of antibody coding genes and antibodies to a tick salivary protein in P. leucopus. The building of heritable future immunity through genetic modification techniques is the basis for framing the process as eco-friendly, and is hypothesised to interrupt Lyme disease transmission and reduce tick populations, with unknown ecological ramifications.

I hope to provide a multidisciplinary and multispecies perspective on an issue of significant and vexing anthrozoological importance: how residents feel about the genetic engineering of their local wildlife to prevent zoonotic transmission of disease. I am excited about the challenge of identifying and documenting decision-making within such a dynamic context, where contentious and longstanding wildlife management issues are juxtaposed against the novel proposal of the scientists to empower residents with strategic management of the multiyear experiment.