Banting Fellow to research social networks that influence farmers
Caroline Ritter won the most prestigious postdoctoral award in Canada, a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. This award attracts and retains top-tier postdoctoral students in Canada and helps position them as leading researchers of the future.
She was drawn to UBC to study the social networks of dairy farmers with Professor Marina von Keyserlingk, a well-known researcher with a reputation for being a strong supervisor. Both share a passion for animal welfare and aim to translate their findings into recommendations for policymakers and other stakeholders.
“In my postdoctoral research I hope to use the social sciences to find out who influences farmers. By understanding their social networks, it will help us distribute information more effectively so that we can better inform and motivate farmers to use best management practices.”
Ritter also wants to incorporate a citizen’s view of farm management and develop recommendations to support farmers in their decision-making around health and welfare management.
Ritter began studying factors that influence farmers during her PhD, which focused on how veterinarians can be more effective advisors. She used recordings of on-farm conversations to assess interactions between veterinarians and farmers, concluding that communication improves when veterinarians fully consider farmers’ goals and concerns to negotiate a mutually agreed-upon plan for the farm instead of simply imposing advice.
Ritter has always been drawn to animals. While she was growing up in Germany she had many pets, including guinea pigs, cats, dogs and horses. She obtained a veterinarian license in Germany in a five-and-a-half year program, but practicing medicine wasn’t her calling.
She decided to pursue research and went to the University of Calgary in 2013 to obtain a PhD in Veterinary Preventative Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health. While there, she volunteered as a clinical communication coach to improve veterinarian outreach to farmers.
Ritter started at UBC in September and has been enjoying many West Coast outdoor activities since arriving. She believes that taking breaks are important to recharge.
“I enjoy hiking and I’ve taken windsurfing courses from Jericho Sailing Centre. It’s always fun to see seals popping up when I’m windsurfing.”