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Women in Poultry Science

In Spring 2020, the graduate students in PO 601/801, the required graduate seminar class, completed a project highlighting women who have made significant contributions to poultry science.

The project is hosted here, to provide a more complete picture of the field of poultry science and to increase the visibility of women in the field.

Women members of the N.C. Poultry Science Hall of Fame are also listed here.

Active c. 1950 – 1970

Dr. Lidia Bobr was very active in the research community between 1950 and 1970. While she only published a few papers, her findings fundamentally influenced the modern understanding of reproductive physiology in poultry.

Dr. Bobr worked as a reproductive physiologist at the Poultry Research Centre, Werribee, Victoria, Australia.

Dr. Bobr’s important findings include the following:

  • 1946 – site of spermatozoa storage is reported to be in the infundibular ‘sperm nests.’
  • 1964 – tubular glands in the uterovaginal junction function as storage site of spermatozoa.
1883 – 1961

This biography is taken from the N.C. Poultry Federation Poultry Science Hall of Fame.

Mrs. F. B. Bunch, nee Lizzie May Pardue, was born in 1883 in Cheatam County, Tennessee. She was a graduate of Western Kentucky College in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Mrs. Bunch became interested in the poultry industry in the early 1920s and started a small hatchery in the basement of her home in 1926. She later added a room to the house called the “pine room” that housed the Bunch Hatchery with two Smith incubators.

Mrs. Bunch was noted in her early years for her Wyandottes, Barred Rocks, and Rhode Island Reds, and was an innovator in developing the North Carolina broiler industry. She produced New Hampshire-Barred Rock crossed chickens for broiler production, and was one of the early broiler contractors in Iredell County, NC. She became known throughout the broiler industry as an astute businesswoman and was the first president of the North Carolina Poultry Association.

In 1975, Mrs. F. B. Bunch was named a member of the North Carolina Poultry Hall of Fame.

1933 – 1996

Dr. Helene C. Cecil earned her B.S. in Zoology and her Ph.D. in Poultry Science. In her career, she made 169 scientific presentations and served on numerous supervisory committees.

Dr. Cecil’s research focused on animal welfare issues, the effects of agricultural chemicals and environmental pollutants on animals, and physiological mechanisms of reproductive performance in turkey toms.

Dr. Cecil was the first woman elected president of the Poultry Science Association. She chaired the Task Force for the Professional Advancement of Women in Agricultural Research Service and coordinated the USDA’s Federal Women’s Program.

1890 – 1978

Harriette Eliza Cushman earned a Poultry Specialist degree in 1918 and became the first poultry extension worker in the United States.

Ms. Cushman became the first poultry grader for the Northwest Turkey Federation and helped form the nation’s first egg and turkey wholesale cooperatives.

In 1945, Cushman published the 4-H Poultry Manual and in 1963, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Agriculture by Montana State College. Read about Harriette Cushman on Wikipedia.

1908 – 2004

This biography is taken from the N.C. Poultry Federation Poultry Science Hall of Fame.

Aurelia Ilse Guffey was born in Westphalia, Missouri and was involved in the hatchery business her entire career. She started in hatcheries as an office assistant with the Hilkemeyer Brothers Hatchery in Westphalia, MO. She later transferred to Jefferson City, MO as manager of one of their hatcheries and later managed hatcheries in a number of cities for the growing company.

In the early 1930s, Mrs. Guffey, then Aurelia Ilse, was transferred to Greensboro, North Carolina as manager of the Carolina Hatcheries and became a partner with the Hilkemeyer Brothers Hatchery. Mrs. Guffey married Samuel Edward Guffey, one of the breeding flock supervisors, soon after arriving in North Carolina.

Mrs. Guffey expanded the Carolina Hatcheries business rapidly and manageed the North Carolina broiler operations after the early deaths of Leonard and Albert Hilkemeyer. The hatchery grew from one operation producing 25,000 chicks per week to seven hatcheries with a capacity of over 1 million chicks per week.

Mrs. Guffey retired from the hatchery business in 1974. Aurelia Ilse Guffey was a pioneer in developing the hatchery and broiler industries in North Carolina and the North Carolina Poultry Federation inducted her as a member of the North Carolina Poultry Hall of Fame in 1979.

Read an obituary for Mrs. Guffey from the Greensboro News & Record.

active 1979 – present

Dr.Lillehoj is a senior Research Immunologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In her career to date, she has published 404 original papers and 20 book chapters; she holds 13 national and international patents.

Dr. Lillehoj’s accomplishments include:

  • developing the first set of commercialized mouse monoclonal antibodies detecting chicken lymphocytes,
  • developing the Poultry Genome Mapping Project and identifing a Quantitative Trait Loci that controls coccidiosis disease resistance, and
  • constructing the first chicken intestinal cDNA microarray.

Dr. Lillehoj has identified natural antimicrobial molecules that have anti-cancer properties and that kill infectious parasites. She has found that certain food supplements, probiotics and vaccines can replace antibiotics as effective means to fight common parasitic diseases and bacterial infections.

Read Dr. Lillehoj’s biography from the USDA-ARS.

1920 – 2019

Dr. Beryl March was a professor, and later dean of agriculture, at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. March’s research specialties included:

  • thyroid metabolism and nutrition,
  • the evaluation of protein quality,
  • the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins and lipids, and
  • adipose tissue hyperplasia and hypertrophy.

In her career, Dr. March published over 200 papers in scientific journals. She was a prominent figure in the poultry science community.

In 1957, Cheryl F. Nockels was the first woman to graduate with a degree in Animal Nutrition from Colorado State University. In 1964, she joined the faculty at CSU as the first woman faculty member in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Dr. Nockels’ work from the early 1970s to the late 1980s formed the basis for drug-free alternatives to antibiotic resistance in production animals. Many methods developed in the modern poultry industry (e.g. increased vitamin and mineral supplementation for microbial control) would not be possible without her research. Significant findings from Dr. Nockel’s research include that

  • increased supplementation of vitamin E increases antibody response to a bacterial challenge in broilers (1974),
  • vitamins E and A significantly help immune recovery from bacterial infections in broilers (1975) and
  • the presence of E. Coli endotoxin significantly changes trace element kinetics in the animal (Zn, Cu, Fe) (1988).

Dr. Nockels had nutritional expertise across a range of domesticated animal species and had over 30 publications addressing clinical nutrition. In 1995, Dr. Nockels was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the American Society of Animal Science.

1907 – 1990

Dr. Mary Shaw Shorb was a multidisciplinary scientist with 58 published papers as author or co-author. She won many awards and honors during and after her career.

In 1933, Dr. Shorb developed a heterophile antigen; it was widely used to treat pneumonia before the use of sulfa drugs.

Her key study, that involved the development of lactobacillus lactis dormer (LLD) assay, led to the discovery of vitamin B12, the last vitamin to be discovered. Her work has saved many pernicious anemia patients.

1944 – 2015

This biography and image is extracted from the obituary by Professor Maureen Bain.

“Sally Solomon was born on 19th April 1944 in Glasgow. She worked in academia for over 40 years and she published widely in the general field of egg formation and egg quality. Her passing deprives the scientific community and the poultry industry of one of its most outstanding individuals.”

In 1995, Solomon became the first woman to join the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow. Her work covered poultry and expanded to assist turtle research and youth outreach. Solomon was also an artist, exhibiting work “inspired by electron microscopy” and supporting other artists.

active 1980s – present

Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton grew up in Holly Springs, a small town in north Mississippi; she fell in love with bacteria during a science class – at eight years old.

Dr. Thaxton has had a long career, with positions including:

  • microbiologist for MFC Services,
  • 30 years in the poultry industry,
  • a professor at Mississippi State University and, currently,
  • Professor Emerita and Director, Center for Food Animal Well Being.

Dr. Thaxton’s published work covers humane methods for stunning broilers, stress and nutritional quality of broilers, hehavior, brain and cardiac responses in broilers, and campylobacter and salmonella in broiler breeders.

In 2016 Dr. Thaxton was inducted into the Poultry Hall of Fame. In 2017, she was named a Fellow of the Poultry Science Association.