Paige Barnes: My Summer at the San Diego Zoo

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This summer, I was selected as a summer fellow at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research with the Population Sustainability team. The Institute for Conservation Research fights extinction globally through research, outreach, and education. I chose the Population Sustainability team because of its focus on animal behavior and the work this team has done for conservation.

Working under Jennifer Tobey at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Beckmann Center, I studied undesirable behaviors exhibited by some of the western lowland gorillas on exhibit. My teammate and I developed an ethogram to capture various focal behaviors. We then initiated the use of behavioral collection apps on tablets for the Zoo and collected 140 hours of observation and discovered that these undesirable behaviors may be anticipatory.

Prior to this, I spent the last three years as an undergraduate assistant in Dr. Kay Holekamp’s Hyena Lab studying innovative behavior and vocalizations. In 2017, I was awarded the Stiles-Butcher Award in Zoology for my work in and outside the classroom. I also worked as a REU student with Dr. Lars Brudvig, studying plant recruitment as part of the Corridor Project in South Carolina.

The work this summer reaffirmed my commitment to animal behavior research. After graduating in May with degrees in Statistics and Zoology with a concentration in Animal Behavior and Neurobiology, as well as a Computer Science minor, I plan to continue with research. After this fellowship, I aim to go to graduate school to work with behavior and endocrinology, likely with a focus on primates.