Experiences Gained in the Animal Welfare Research Department at Brookfield Zoo

As a research assistant for the Animal Welfare Research Department at Brookfield Zoo, I have learned a great deal about the scientific process and research methodologies. Recently, I was accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The program will start at the beginning of 2021 and I will be studying the welfare of sheep. The valuable experience I have gained and the skill set I have cultivated while working at Brookfield Zoo over the last two years has prepared me for Ph.D. candidacy.

In one of my earliest projects, data obtained from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was used to evaluate the enrichment preferences of African lions. We found that the lions interacted with preferred items more often and over a longer duration than with other items. We hope our methodology can be tested across species and institutions and that it will prove to be an expedient way to assess enrichment provided to animals. This project gave me experience drawing information from large datasets, and through extensive literature reviews, I learned about the many uses of preference assessment and published my second peer-reviewed manuscript.

Jasiri and Arnieta reticulated giraffes

In various projects working with animals on zoo grounds, I enjoyed opportunities to collaborate with animal care staff and managers on identifying the best ways to monitor the behavior of the animals in their care. We worked with many species in this capacity including white-bellied pangolins, ring-tailed lemurs, and giraffes. The experience of working across departments to accomplish a research goal taught me skills I will readily use as a Ph.D. candidate.

Dogwood ring-tailed lemur

I also had the pleasure of presenting our research—both in person and virtually—at national and international conferences. For example, a virtual presentation I recently gave at the International Society for Applied Ethology’s annual conference covered research we conducted remotely using historic data to evaluate the welfare of primates in Tropic World. Being able to share the amazing welfare research we conduct at Brookfield Zoo, with both conference attendees and zoo guests, has been a favorite part of my job.

White-bellied pangolin Benson Jr. climbing a branch

I will always fondly remember the hours spent observing various animals across the zoo and the friendships I made here. These memories and the skills I take with me will be instrumental to my success as a Ph.D. candidate.

-Jocelyn Woods, Behavioral Research Assistant

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Posted: 10/26/2020 3:20:27 PM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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