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Research Fellow

Doctor Vanessa Rohlf
ARG Research Fellow

Research Fellow
La Trobe University, Australia

I completed my PhD at Monash University in 2013 under the supervision of Pauleen Bennett, Grahame Coleman and Samia Toukhsati.

Alongside my clinical work as a registered counsellor with a special interest in pet loss, traumatic stress, and burnout in those who care for animals, I continue to work within the ARG at La Trobe University as a Research Fellow. My main research interests are mental health and wellbeing in animal care professionals, and human-animal relationships.

Mental health and wellbeing in animal care professionals

I am leading a project funded by RSPCA Victoria investigating predictors of compassion fatigue in Australian animal shelters. The aim of this research is to identify factors predicting compassion fatigue in animal care professionals working in Australian animal shelters. It is anticipated that knowledge of these factors will inform policies and procedures to help mitigate compassion fatigue as well as identify staff training and support needs.

Further to this, I am leading a project funded by Wildlife Victoria to support the mental health of wildlife volunteers. This project will inform the development of health and wellbeing support programs for wildlife volunteers and forms part of Wildlife Victoria’s Volunteer Services Improvement Program.

Human-animal relationships

I have studied attitudes towards responsible dog ownership practices, public attitudes towards farm animals, and most recently, the role of emotions and support from companion animals on human mental health during the pandemic. This is part of a longitudinal project which included tracking pet owner wellbeing, health, and pet welfare during and over the course of the pandemic. We hope to use the results of this large project to identify ways to promote both human and pet welfare.


La Trobe University is a public research university based in Victoria, Australia. Established in 1964, La Trobe University now accommodates over 36,000 students and operates across regional and rural campuses.