What the heck is a behaviourist?

That’s a good question!  A behaviourist studies the behaviour of animals in zoos, basically to make sure that they are healthy and happy and psychologically ok.

My graduate students and a hearty band of undergraduate volunteers help collect data on a variety of species, like jaguars, gorillas, cheetahs, orangutans, gibbons, tigers, polar bears, snow leopards, elephants, lynx, marmots, moose and more!

We record their behaviour over an extended time period, and then compare their behaviour to what we expect the species to be like in the wild.  If the animals are well adjusted, they should show a wide range of behaviours, including courtship and mating.  If not, we can try to modify their environment so see if we can help.

Some current projects:

--behavioural enrichment for orangutans

-the effects of stress on stereotypical behaviour in large carnivores

--activity levels of giant pandas

--designing ‘smart’ exhibits for captive polar bears