Dr. Island’s C.V.

Behavioral Research and Instructional Neuroscience (BRAIN) Laboratory

Sea Otter Project: Hannah Claussenius-Kalman and Julia Wengeler

This project describes an ongoing behavioral study of three captive Southern Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) at the Oregon Zoo. For the last fifteen years, the Oregon Zoo has nurtured and housed the two adults, Thelma (female) and Eddie (male), who arrived in the zoo’s care in 2000. In the spring of 2014 year, a third southern sea otter, Juno (female) joined the Oregon Zoo from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The empirical questions this project hopes to address are how the introduction of a third, juvenile sea otter affects the daily activity of the senior pair. If the social dynamics vary across sea otters when different animals are on exhibit (e.g., Thelma and Eddie, Eddie and Juno, or Juno and Thelma) either in their activities or space utilization. Additionally, if the visitor impact score–the degree of disruption associated with higher visitor densities–change the sea otters’ behavior and utilization of enclosure space. If behaviors associated with stereotypy occur during daily activity budgets, under what conditions are these behaviors associated? And finally, there are over 200 enrichment items cataloged for the sea otters at the Oregon Zoo, we hope to better understand the value of some enrichment items relative to others based on the behavioral persistence with any single enrichment tool. The goal of this investigation is to better understand the affect of visitor density on space utilization, behavioral activity, and enrichment persistence among this population of sea otters. The results of this study may be meaningful for other zoos and aquariums housing sea otters, particularly those that currently developing space for the inclusion of sea otters among their exhibits or those planning enclosure renovations. Given the declining sea otter population worldlwide, the efforts of rehabilitation and recovery centers, particularly of stranded southern sea otter pups, to find placements for recovering animals, understanding space utilization of captive animals and conditions that affect their behavioral persistence with enrichment items is relevant for other zoos and aquariums that house sea otters.

Hannah Claussenius-Kalman and Julia Wengeler, July 2015 – Wild Sea Otter Population Surveys, Sekui, Washington

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Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Hannah Claussenius-Kalman, Poster Presentation, September 2015, Salt Lake City, UT

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Animal-Assisted Therapy Program Evaluation                                                                                 
Student Researchers: Michelle Smith, April Knowlton, Hannah Olson, Lenore Ribera, Jhoevhana Sabado


This project is a program evaluation of an animal-assisted therapy program at two domestic violence shelters: Monika’s House and Raphael’s House in Beaverton and Portland respectively. We have completed a two year formative evaluation (see link here) and presented this work at five academic conferences, students will be presenting at the American Evaluator Association’s conference in November, a manuscript of this work will also be submitted to their peer-review journal in the fall.

North American River Otter Research (Oregon Zoo)                                                                   Kawita Kaur and Matthew Parla

img_7033After a year-long project observing the sea otters at the Oregon Zoo, observers identified unique, captive behavior among a bonded mother surrogate-juvenile bond between two female sea otters. This research will be submitted for publication in the peer-reviewed paper, Zoo Biology in the fall. In addition, the activity budget, enclosure use, and stereotypic behaviors will be presented at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in September. Given this summer a new river otter pup was adopted by the Oregon Zoo, creating an analogous observation opportunity of the Oregon Zoo river otters (one male, two females) relative to their sea otters (one male, two females).

Sensory Predictors of Post-Concussive Syndrome                                                               Dakota Stewart, Emma Ferns, and Lina Kleinschmidt                                                               This is a continuation of a former project to assess the prevalence of students with post-concussive syndrome, with a special emphasis on performance athletes (e.g., dancers, theater performers, etc), both within the Pacific community and within the larger Portland area.  This research is a collaboration with the College of Optometry and Dr. Hannu Laukannen.


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