Zoology program members lead sessions at major conference

imageSeveral current students and recent graduates of SUNY Oswego’s zoology program presented their research at a major international conference over the summer.

Dr. Diane Chepko-Sade, assistant professor of biology, described the chance for students to lead sessions at the seventh International Environmental Enrichment Conference, in New York City from July 31 to Aug. 5, as an outstanding opportunity.

Students in her “Zoo Biology” course “have followed the proceedings of these meetings with great interest, as they learn to apply the principles of animal behavior to enriching the lives of animals in captivity,” Chepko-Sade explained. Students in the program have developed research projects in which they designed and assessed methods of environmental enrichment since 1994, and the conference represented “an opportunity to strut their stuff,” she said.

Don Moore, the coordinator of the conference on behalf of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said attendees and organizers were impressed with Oswego’s student presenters. “The fact that the same techniques used by Oswego students are also being used internationally by the experts in the field should make you proud that your program is at the cutting edge,” he told Chepko-Sade. 

The SUNY Oswego professor joined Oswego students Melissa Barton, Annessa Frank, Randi Fraser, Rebecca Rookey and Julia Preston-Fulton; two recent graduates, Beulah Sherwood and Katrina Kellerhouse; and Dianne Upmeyer, currently studying at a partner zoo technology program at Santa Fe Community College, in delivering a conference symposium titled “Assessing Enrichment: High Tech and Low Tech Methods.” 

Chepko-Sade, Upmeyer, Barton, Frank, Fraser and Rookey also led a session on complex foraging enrichment encouraging natural foraging behavior in squirrel monkeys.

Upmeyer said the experience provided the students with contacts, confidence and valuable information on the field. “The students from Oswego were the only undergraduates that presented papers at the whole conference,” she said. “I think we made a great representation of what a strong program and college we have.”

Chepko-Sade and Kellerhouse spoke on how a slow-release cricket feeder decreases aggression and increases foraging among a mixed-species exhibit of desert lizards. Chepko-Sade, Preston-Fulton and Sherwood discussed how captive wolves that have been socialized to humans show less vigilance and increased relaxation when compared with parent-reared captive wolves.

Oswego honors student Erin Hale, studying at the Santa Fe program, presented the paper “Enrichment Protocols for the Lined Seahorses (Hippocampus erectus) and the Effects of an Enriched Exhibit on Visitor Viewing Time,” while student Sarah Mahan gave a poster presentation, “Are Leaf-Eating Primates Less Dexterous Than Fruit-Eating Primates?”

The conference, which takes place every other year, attracted more than 500 participants from around the world.

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(Posted: Aug 24, 2005)

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