Maci Mueller, a graduate student assistant at the University of California-Davis, was one of the five students to receive a scholarship to attend the 2018 CAST Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California, during the last full week of October. The pilot CAST Science Communication Scholarship program required applicants to submit a 30-second video explaining why science communication plays such a critical role in sharing their research findings. Mueller explains why implementing sound and scientifically based agricultural policy is crucial for meeting the global needs of the future. Her video can be found on CAST’s YouTube channel and other CAST social media.
Mueller’s passion for science and cattle runs deep. In fact, one of her earliest childhood memories is when she hosted a cattle sale in her family’s living room. “Well, we have a real nice group of cattle to look at here today. They are nice, big, and black,” announced a young Mueller from her auction block (a Little Tykes table) as her younger brother entered the “show ring” leading their black lab puppy, appropriately named Angus. She feels very fortunate to have grown up working with her family on their first-generation Angus beef cattle operation. It has been a lifelong dream of hers to be influential in the cattle industry.
As she matured and became more involved in the family operation, she learned that it is so much more than just feed, care, and animal husbandry. “I saw firsthand the crucial role that innovative animal science research, particularly in genetics, plays in improving animal protein production efficiency. These experiences have ultimately led me to combining my two passions of science and cattle to pursue a career in animal genetics.” Mueller’s goal as an animal geneticist is to help make the premium source of protein produced by cattle more readily available through the use of genetic-based biotechnologies and related production practices and policies to help producers be as efficient and sustainable as possible.
Working closely with Alison Van Eenennaam, a BCCA Laureate, Mueller’s graduate research focuses on the application of gene editing in livestock production systems for improved animal welfare and production efficiency. Her Ph.D. research is centered around examining the potential for combining advanced breeding technologies, like gene editing and the recent isolation of bovine embryonic stem cells (cells that are self-renewing and can differentiate into any embryo cell type), to produce surrogate sires. “This technology could be used to produce commercial environmentally adapted bulls that produce elite donor bull-derived sperm to cows via natural service. The application of this research has the potential to improve beef production efficiency in the U.S. and worldwide, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of animal-sourced protein production.”
Making it a priority of her graduate career to continue improving and refining her science communication skills, Mueller understands the importance of being able to communicate with and educate both producers and consumers about innovative science-based technologies. “I greatly appreciated the opportunity provided by CAST to attend the 2018 CAST Annual Meeting in Sacramento. I gained valuable insight and understanding of how this nonprofit accomplishes their important mission of assembling, interpreting, and communicating credible, balanced, science-based information.” We believe she has a wonderful example of effective science communication through her mentor Van Eenennaam, and we look forward to watching Mueller follow in her footsteps.
As Mueller looks toward the future, her ultimate career goal is to provide research and education that results in new genetic-based biotechnologies for use in livestock production systems to improve animal production by decreasing its environmental footprint and enhancing its nutritional quality. It has been a true pleasure getting to know her, and we look forward to working with her in the future.
Your donation to CAST helps support the CAST mission of communicating science to meet the challenge of producing enough food, fiber and fuel for a growing population. Every gift, no matter the size, is appreciated.