Temple Grandin comes to Dal

Dr. Grandin speaks at the Agricultural Campus Tuesday

- November 29, 2013

Temple Grandin. (Provided photo)
Temple Grandin. (Provided photo)

Not everyone gets to do something truly revolutionary in his or her life. That’s why it's so impressive that Temple Grandin has been at the forefront of not one, but two revolutionary movements that have made her an international superstar.

Dr. Grandin, named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world in 2010, is a professor at Colorado State University whose research has led to dramatic improvements in animal welfare in the meat industry. She’s also been a hugely influential activist in autism awareness, having spent her life overcoming personal and professional obstacles presented by the condition. Her inspiring story was the subject of an Emmy- and Peabody-winning HBO biopic in 2010 starring Claire Daines.

Understanding animal behaviour

Dr. Grandin is coming to Nova Scotia next week to speak at the sold-out Celebrating Abilities conference in Cape Breton. But as part of her visit, she insisted on speaking in her capacity as a researcher as well, and will give a public talk at Dal’s Agricultural Campus on Tuesday afternoon, December 3.

Her lecture — “Understanding Animal Behaviour: How Animals Think, Preventing Fear Memories, Reducing Stress” — takes place in the Alumni Theatre at 2 p.m., but will also be livestreamed on the Dal website for individuals in Halifax and elsewhere to watch.

The event is actually Dr. Grandin’s second time visiting campus; she gave a guest lecture at NSAC several years ago.

Unable to speak when she was two years old, and showing all the signs of severe autism, Dr. Grandin spent her childhood in speech therapy and intensive teaching, often teased and ridiculed by her peers in school. But mentored by her high school science teacher and inspired by her aunt — a rancher — Dr. Grandin was motivated to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment engineer.

Her contributions have been extraordinary: currently, half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are handled using equipment she designed, and she’s been a consultant on animal welfare for everyone from McDonalds to Wendy’s International. Her books, including Animals in Translation and Livestock Handling and Transport, have been international bestsellers. She’s won countless awards including the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Livestock Conservation Institute, has served on the board for the Autism Society of America, and has been profiled by the New York Times, People, National Public Radio and more.

A generous mentor

Her impact has been felt right here on campus as well. Dr. Grandin was a mentor and external reader for Jane Morrigan, a Master of Agriculture graduate, when she was completing her thesis work in the late 1990s.

Morrigan returned to university after retiring from her 16-year career as a dairy farmer. Her research focused on assessing the stress experienced by cull dairy cows at a large regional abattoir, a topic that quickly brought her in contact with Dr. Grandin’s work.

“She’s done so much work in designing better systems in feed lots and slaughter houses, so when I heard she was speaking in New Brunswick, I contacted her and she agreed to meet,” explains Morrigan.

Dr. Grandin not only met with Morrigan but provided occasional guidance through her research and agreed to be the external examiner for her thesis. “She gave me an A; I’m very proud of that,” she says.

Morrigan, who now runs her own animal welfare training and auditing firm called Integrity Livestock Services, subsequently taught a course in animal welfare at NSAC for nine years as a sessional lecturer, with Dr. Grandin’s work continuing to be a key influence.

“She has been a mentor, a terrific inspiration and has hugely influenced my career and the entire field,” says Morrigan.

“Her generosity really seems to know no bounds.”

Lecture information

Visit the Faculty of Agriculture website for full details on Dr. Grandin’s lecture and how you can attend or watch online. You can also submit questions for Dr. Grandin on Twitter with the hashtag #AskTemple, and follow @DalNews for an opportunity to win an autographed copy of one of Dr. Grandin’s books.


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus