Student Spotlight: Grace Moeller

Grace Moeller Current Student Feature Graphic

Grace Moeller, an Ohio State University Zoology graduate, received her Master's in Animal Science from Iowa State in 2020 with the late Dr. Ken Stalder and is now working on her Ph.D. in Animal Science with Dr. Dan Thomson. After receiving her Bachelor's degree from Ohio State, Grace said her decision to continue her education at Iowa State was an easy one. Her parents are both Iowa State University graduates, so she said that coming to Iowa State felt like coming home. One of her favorite parts about the department is the diverse and expansive group of faculty members we have and the immense amount of support for graduate students regardless of species of interest or area of focus.

For Grace’s Master’s degree, she evaluated structural soundness in replacement gilts, evaluating ten different structural conformation traits, in addition to assessing repeatability and reproducibility of the scoring system utilized to determine the suitability of its use by animal caretakers in commercial swine production settings. For her Ph.D., Grace is involved in multi-disciplinary, multi-species research involving swine and feedlot cattle. For the swine component of her research, the same population of gilts from her Master’s were placed into stalled and group-housed gestation facilities to determine which structural soundness traits are the most important for improved longevity in the breeding herd, particularly in group-housed facilities as their implementation is increasing in the swine industry. The overarching goal for this research is to improve gilt selection practices, thereby reducing lameness and improving sow longevity. For the feedlot cattle compontent of her research, Grace is investigating the impact of cattle docility and temperament on feedlot performance, health, and carcass characteristics.

Picture of Grace Moeller, Dr. Dan Thomson and Leah Greiner standing in front of Iowa Premium facility
Dr. Dan Thomson, Leah Greiner, and Grace Moeller during one of their first days at the Iowa Premium plant for Grace's Ph.D. research.

While working towards her bachelor's degree, Grace went on multiple study abroad trips, the first being a trip to New Zealand in 2016 to study Human and Animal Interactions. Grace enjoyed that this trip featured many different and diverse species and was able to experience the uniqueness of the country's livestock operations firsthand. In 2017, she received the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium to experience and compare their unique dairy systems, including a sheep dairy, a goat dairy, and even a horse dairy. These trips were invaluable to Grace as they provided her with a global appreciation for different cultures, in addition to realizing that there are a multitude of ways to achieve success in the field of agriculture-based resource availability.

When asked if there was an achievement that Grace was most proud of, she responded with serving on college and university-level advisory committees. Currently, Grace serves on the CALS Graduate Education Advisory Committee and the inaugural Dean of Students Advisory Committee. While these are both highly honorable positions, it is the fact that she received these opportunities from the recognition and nomination of her fellow peers and faculty members that make this accomplishment stand out to her. Grace continued by pointing out that it is nice to be recognized and to know that others recognize the value you bring to the table and believe you to be a strong representative of the values held by the college and university. 

While Grace's plans following graduation are not yet clear-cut, she knows she would like to enter the industry. Through her multi-disciplinary and multi-species research, Grace feels that she will have a skill set that is well-suited to answer the questions that the livestock industry faces. She enjoys working with producers and finding on-farm solutions that help promote positive animal welfare. It is evident that no matter where Grace decides to take her career next, she will continue to excel just as she has done here at Iowa State University.  

Grace's advice for new students: "To all the new undergraduate students, get involved with a variety of activities and clubs; this is your time to find your group of friends and establish and shape yourself for the future. To all new graduate students, graduate school is hard enough on its own, so ensuring you have the correct support system that understands what you are going through is critical to your success. Never be afraid to ask questions and ask for help.” Additionally, in light of recent circumstances, Grace wants to remind others to not let short-term circumstances get in the way of long-term goals. That was one of her favorite “Stalderisms.”