Meet Alana Bayne Hernandez, Meat Science Master’s Student
Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Charismatic, hard working and passionate for social issues, Alana uses science as a starting point to educate others towards more accessible and sustainable forms of living.
Passionate and curious about animals from a young age, Alana completed her undergraduate studies in Animal Science from the College of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez campus and decided to pursue her graduate studies in the same institution. As a graduate student she’s excited to explore her love for food and nutrition through science as part of the food science program. Within this program she is specializing in ovine nutrition and meat quality under the supervision of Dr. Abner Rodríguez Carias. Alana is currently focusing her research efforts in evaluating meat quality across different cuts of lamb and hogget meat. Alana fondly recalls those summer days working alongside her sheep and recognizes how her previous experiences as an undergraduate prepared her for the tasks at hand. She has found that growth is not linear and the world is full of opportunities that may be unbeknownst to you but that are within your reach.
Finding her path to science
Born in the tropical island of Puerto Rico, Alana always felt close to nature and a striking curiosity for the relationship between humans and animals. Having studied animal science as an undergraduate she wished to find a path that would complement her knowledge in animal production. She recalls how her advisor played a huge role in finding opportunities for her personal and professional growth within the animal industry. ”My mentor was the one who set me in the right direction by introducing me to different branches of science so that I could further explore areas I was not even aware of”. She stresses that not only professors play a role in providing guidance during these searches but that your peers are an integral part of that support system.
“It is important to believe in yourself and your capabilities but also to surround yourself with people who push you to believe in what you can accomplish.”
You don’t need to wait for grad school to diversify your experiences
For many years, Alana was unsure of how to correlate her love for animals and a career working in the food industry. She wondered if these two seemingly opposing lines could be compatible with one another. It was through the university that she found a community of people who shared her concerns and her passions. She completed an undergraduate professional student practice at an agroecological farm in Manatí, Puerto Rico Frutos del Guacabo. It was during the student practice, where she cared for small ruminants such as goats, that she was able to witness farming from an actual production and administration standpoint. It was here that Alana saw a different way in which farming could be done, she shared that “one of the biggest lessons I learned from my student practice is that one can love and care for animals, be an advocate for animal welfare and still consume meat responsibly”. Could what Alana had previously thought impossible really be done? Of course!
Another memorable experience was a student trip to visit different communities and ovine producers in Guatemala. Through this experience, she was able to witness first hand how these production systems differed from those found in Puerto Rico and the United States. Taking in many valuable experiences and lessons from the trip, she has since used this expanded worldview and used it as fuel to advance her commitment to a more sustainable and ecologically guided approach to farming.
Towards the end of her undergraduate studies, she also worked as an undergraduate research assistant under Andrea Ríos Lugardo who was then a Master’s student. She describes the opportunity of working with Andrea on her project as one that “really helped me to clarify that this was indeed the path I wished to pursue and prepared me for my own transition into graduate school. I was also able to get hands-on experience with different protocols and procedures that I would later on use for my own research project, which made things a lot easier to grasp later on.”
Beyond academia, what’s next?
Even though she enjoys her time working at the farm and the lab Alana hopes to one day combine two of her greatest passions: science and the culinary arts! One of Alana’s favorite things is to cook, carefully selecting meals with ingredients that are nourishing to the body and kind to the earth.
“I love cooking and I especially love cooking for others. To share a meal with someone, to see they’ve enjoyed themselves and are nurtured makes me happy, it is an expression of love. It is such an amazing thing to be able to grow and produce food!”
Alana does not rule out continuing her studies further, however, at the moment she feels unsure she would embark on the journey towards a doctorate degree while classes remain virtual. She aspires to one day dive into the world of culinary arts but has yet to find a program that fully compliments her goals. She does know that her dream is to one day open up a restaurant so she can share her love for sustainable agriculture and food!
Educating the community in a new way
With a strong commitment to animal welfare and proper care for production animals she decided to take part in educating her community. Alana embarked herself on a journey to raise awareness and consciousness on issues such as climate change, recycling, pet health, women’s reproductive health, among others. She was decisive that the present public health emergency and a virtual landscape would not deter her from making an impact. With this mission in mind she co-founded Educultura, a social media profile aimed at educating the general public which launched after the march 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. Educultura currently produces its content in spanish, as it is primarily geared for the latinx and hispanic community, but Alana hopes it will continue to grow and reach more people. She also started doing freelance work co-founding Rumicare, a platform where they not only focus on educating the public about the small ruminant industry and the importance of animal welfare but you can also find general husbandry services for your animals. Some of the services include proper hoof care, nutrition, reproductive health, wool shearing, among others.
Farmers don’t receive the acknowledgement they deserve
As enthusiastic as she is about cooking and animal welfare, Alana is vocal about the importance of creating opportunities that show the general public that farmers are essential workers and that their work should be acknowledged and paid fairly as such. She shares a memory from high school where a friend got made fun of for sharing she wanted to be a dairy farmer. Alana adds, “The government and the educational system are and should be responsible for promoting the respect for agriculture within their curriculum from a young age”.
As for women’s role within the agricultural sciences she wholeheartedly believes that “women have a lot to bring to the table, different ways and perspectives on how to get things done. We need to take up these spaces and not allow ourselves to be kept from participating. This diversity and representation is crucial moving forward” and recalls outstanding and inspiring women such as Temple Granding who she acknowledges as a role model for her work in advancing the humane treatment of livestock.
Young women: Be relentless!
Family has proven to be Alana’s biggest source of courage and inspiration. The women in her life are Alana’s driving force. Alana describes her mother as her biggest teacher and role model and details how she influenced her career path by sharing “my mother is generous, hardworking, disciplined and dedicated, all of which are crucial qualities in our line of work and in being able to perform effectively with a team.” Alana expresses her gratitude in these lessons and recognizes their value beyond work and academia. However, possibly the most notable influence in Alana’s passion for her work comes from her two-year-old niece. Alana dedicates her work to building a sustainable and fair world for her to thrive in as a woman in whatever she may choose to do.
As she thinks of all those young girls and women interested in pursuing science but still afraid she asks them to be unabaiting in their pursuit; “don’t give in, be relentless. Never doubt yourself or allow being told you can't do something. From a young age girls are told we are not capable or strong which is untrue. Don’t be afraid of saying what you think and be true to yourself.” Alana shares that as a student, one of her biggest struggles was an enemy a lot of us know all too well: the impostor syndrome. Among the most valuable lessons she has received from her journey through grad school has been that “You’re capable, you can do this. Recognize in yourself the capabilities, skills and strengths you recognize in others. I used to worry but realized I was holding myself back. I was a lot more capable than I thought I was, and it was just that which stops us all from thriving: fear. Go for it!”
Very grateful to Alana for the interview!
You can find Alana Bayne Hernández at email@example.com
This interview was conducted and written by WAGS Team Member,
You can read the Spanish version of the profile here.