Friday, August 22, 2014

ABC Students' Posters at Animal Behavior Society (ABS) 2014 Conference

I am really delighted to write this post because I want to showcase the work that my colleagues and I presented at Animal Behavior Society (ABS) conference in Princeton University last week. You cannot fathom my unduly excitement that for once I was able to showcase my work along with my colleagues at a conference. Why is this important, you might ask. Well, it's important because for once I felt like there was some form of team spirit at the conference. In a sense, I am not the only person representing my program at the conference but a cohesive group of grad students presenting their hard work and disseminating science. GO ABC!

I am no stranger to conferences. I go to conferences whenever possible. In fact, the two reasons I go to conferences is to showcase my work, as well as socializing and networking. Most conferences I go to are primate-related, and because my program has a diverse population of graduate students studying different kinds of animals, I generally never see any of my "primate colleagues" at conferences.

While this is my first year at ABS, this is also my first time presenting my work along with my colleagues. It feels great that my Master's program is well represented, both in attendance as well as presentation. Another first for me was to have a colleague presenting her work on hamadryas baboons. Remember I said I never see any primate colleagues at conferences? Well, this time, not only is she a "primate colleague", she also studies my favorite primate! Two hamadryas baboon posters at a non-primatology conference. Ha! Unheard of (maybe). The stars were aligned indeed.

Here are some of the graduate students from the Animal Behavior and Conservation (ABC) program and their posters (with permission from owner), including mine in the bottom.

P/S - Hope we made you proud, Dr. Chase.

For the official abstracts from the ABS 2014 program, please click here.

Leila Gastil
Assessment of Relationship Quality between Male and Female Hamadryas Baboons (Papio hamadryas)

This study offers insight into the social dynamics of dyadic relationships in a captive Hamadryas population. The Hamadryas baboon has a uniquely stable, patrilineal, multi-level social structure with a pattern of involuntary female dispersion. Four Hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas) one male units (OMUs) were observed at the North Carolina Zoo. Relationship quality was evaluated through the relative levels of grooming equality, male aggression, female avoidance, non-responsiveness to social signals, frequency of head/trunk versus limb/tail grooming, anxiety, non-responsiveness to social signals, and the contextual meanings associated with gaze. The analyses identified three dynamic OMU leadership styles: “Reciprocal”— in which antagonism was low and the lead male occasionally groomed females in his harem, “Antagonistic”— in which antagonism was high and the lead male failed to groom any females in his harem, and “Initial”— in which antagonism was moderately high and the young male occasionally groomed his females. The analysis supported the hypothesis that grooming built and maintained “loyalty and trust” in Hamadryas baboons (Leinfelder et al., 2001), thereby, reducing tension and hostility within dyads and as a result, OMU size was larger and the status higher of those males who groom their females.

Lillian Ciardelli
Assessment of Personality in Captive California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus)

Although the field of animal personality research is growing, information on pinniped personality is lacking. This is surprising considering the prominent role that many pinnipeds play in zoos and aquariums and the many applications of personality knowledge for captive animals. The present study aimed to develop a personality survey for sea lions as well as determine if individual animals showed consistent differences in training behavior. An additional aim was to see if personality profiles correlated with sea lion training styles. The personality survey was created using a combination etic-emic approach. Sea lion trainers from the five Wildlife Conservation Society parks in New York filled out surveys about the California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) with whom they work (19 total across all parks). The trainers also filled out a daily training log from October 2013 to January 2014. I will present the completed analyses to date on the personality profiles. The quantification of individual differences in sea lion behavior holds the potential to improve their care in captivity through development of different training methods for different personalities.

Melissa Fenton
Odor Discrimination in Captive Felids as Revealed by a Habituation Procedure

Discrimination of various stimuli is key in understanding how learning and memory works in animals. When it comes to felids, the extent of odor memory has not been extensively studied. The present study investigates odor discrimination and possible evidence of memory in tigers (Panthera tigris) and snow leopards (Panthera uncia) at the Bronx Zoo in New York. Two categories of olfactory stimuli are used: relevant scents (gaur and Eld’s deer urine), which resemble naturally encountered odors in the wild, and irrelevant scents (banana extract and lime juice), which should not have biological significance. One scent from each category is presented until each cat reaches habituation. Next, the second scent from the same category is presented. An increase in time spent investigating this novel scent indicates discrimination. Afterwards, the first scent is presented again and a decrease in investigation suggests memory ability. Preliminary data suggest habituation is slightly stronger with irrelevant scents and discrimination and odor memory appear more evident with relevant scents. This study will explore the complexity of habituation, discrimination, and odor memory ability in felids.

Evangelia Chondra Tsaoussis-Carter
Four Paws on Literacy: Canines in the Classroom and Using Animals as a Therapeutic Outlet for Children and Adolescences with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

My presentation will be based on my undergraduate thesis from SUNY Purchase: Four Paws on Literacy: Canines in the Classroom improving Literacy Rates and my graduate thesis from Bank Street College of Education: Using Animals as a Therapeutic Outlet for Children and Adolescences with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. The presentation will have the focal point of the bond of humans and animals and how it benefits our lives. I will discuss how reading to canines will lower the anxiety of a struggling reader so they can have a better chance of succeeding. I will also discuss how, by using animals can help children who have emotional and behavioral disorders. Animals have broken through to children who cut themselves off from the world because they find it overwhelming. Animals create a safe zone for children and adults alike.

Raymond Vagell
Talk to the Hand: Hamadryas Baboon (Papio hamadryas) Hand Preference in Gestural Communication

Gestural communication is thought to be a precursor to the origin of human language. Since human language is lateralized between brain hemispheres, this study seek to elucidate whether there is also a lateralization in nonhuman primates gestural communication. One way to investigate brain asymmetry is by observing species-specific behaviors for lateralized hand preference. This preliminary study was observed with the hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas) at the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, New York. Two types of gestural communication were examined to determine if they exhibit hand preference: hand slapping and muzzle wiping. An all occurrence sampling was completed in 3 weeks totaling 24 hours of observation and data collection. First, the Handedness Index (HI) for each individual (N=7) was tabulated for hand slapping and muzzle wiping. Then, Chi-Square Goodness of Fit was used. This study revealed that most P. hamadryas individuals at the Prospect Park Zoo exhibit a right hand preference for both hand slapping (X2 (1, N = 5) = 17.04, p < 0.001), and muzzle wiping (X2 (1, N = 7) = 10.50, p < 0.05). These results are consistent with previous studies on another baboon species, olive baboons (Papio anubis) (Vauclair et al., 2005, Meguerditchian & Vauclair, 2006, and Meguerditchian & Vauclair, 2009). Results from this preliminary study can contribute to the study of nonhuman primate handedness, and the evolution of language.

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