To celebrate International Women’s Day, RDAR talks with exceptional women working in agriculture research in Alberta. We will learn all about their exciting careers and beyond. Meet Dr. Janelle Fouhse, RDAR Research Program Officer.
Tell us about your role as a Research Program Officer?
I like to think of my role at RDAR as forming a bridge between research and reality. Even though I spend a lot of time evaluating exciting research proposals and reports, an important aspect of my job is engaging with stakeholders across Alberta’s agri-food value chain to understand industry priorities, challenges, and successes. My main motivation is to help foster relationships between producers, private industry, and researchers to drive innovations forward that solve challenges.
What is your area of expertise / area of scientific study?
While I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with a variety of animal species (fish, dogs, chickens, and mice), my past research was mainly focused on pigs. During my MSc and PhD, I studied how the composition of pulses and cereal grains impact their nutritional value. More recently, I had the opportunity to study how early life exposures to things like antibiotics, feed additives and/or microbes can impact immune development and disease resilience. While my research focus has been somewhat diverse, I am passionate about applied agriculture research and have always walked through the doors that are open.
Who are some of your female role models?
I have found a lot of inspiration from the women in my own family. My maternal grandmother grew up in a farming community in small-town Saskatchewan, and though she supported the farm, she also had career of her own. I believe my grandmother’s role modeled (for me) how to be independent in a generation where that wasn’t always applauded, paving the way for all the females in our family. My grandmother was brilliant, fiercely independent (perhaps stubborn), and wildly curious about the world around her. Stories of grandma travelling provinces away for teacher training and to serve in the Air Force have always inspired me to be brave and pursue my passions fearlessly. I often wonder if the stories of grandma feeding her flour milling experiments to the ducks subconsciously pushed me to study animal nutrition.
How do you maintain your energy and enthusiasm throughout the day (or week, month, or year…)?
Coffee and connection. I believe more than ever that we live in a disconnected world. While work from home and hybrid work policies have allowed incredible flexibility and have empowered women in the workforce, it has also made it easy to go days (perhaps weeks) without connecting. I find it’s the human connection, specifically the in-person opportunities to engage, that boost my energy levels and passion for what I do.
Do you think women face unique challenges in the workplace?
Yes, on a global level it is my opinion that women face unique challenges. While I am still young and in the early stages of my career, I have yet to be mentored directly by a female. I would like to use this platform to thank those leaders who have supported my academic and career aspirations. I have always had the privilege, and am forever grateful, to feel empowered by those around me. It is my hope that those leaders will continue to support and inspire their teams, and with any luck this will encourage others to do the same.
Do you have a fun fact that you would like to share about you?
I’m a twin! (No, we’re not identical). Even though my twin brother and I don’t have any special ‘twin’ powers we do share a love of science and problem-solving.