I was fortunate to be interviewed for the Los Angeles Times for this lovely piece about the squirrel of the UC Berkeley campus and the work I've been doing with them! Read here and enjoy!
KQED came and filmed my research subjects a few months ago for a feature article as part of their Deep Look series, in which we (sort of) recreated my study of fox squirrels' responses to frustration. The final video and article are posted and just waiting for you to watch!
I have really fallen behind on my squirrel news reporting responsibilities, and there has been SO MUCH squirrel news, that this week will require two posts to catch up. Today, a lot of power outages, squirrels and food, and squirrels in schools and squirrel rescue. Stay tuned for Part II, which will feature A LOT of squirrels and crime, squirrels and sports, this week in cute, and MUCH MORE!
Annoying squirrels for science
I'm very excited that my research examining fox squirrels' responses to a frustrating task has finally been published. This was my first study in graduate school, and although my research questions have changed a lot since then, I had a lot of fun with this one! I spoke with Rachel Gross at Slate about my study, you can read all about it here!
No, but we've got lots of other things to talk about!
What factors lead some cats to develop behavior problems? And what effect does early experience have on kitten behavioral development? There are still many elusive and unanswered questions, but a new study brings us a little closer to understanding some of the relationships between age of spay/neuter (s/n), household variables (such as number of other pets, use of punishment), kitten personality factors (such as fearfulness) and report of behavior problems by owners.
“Development of behavior in adopted shelter kittens following gonadectomy performed at an early age or at a traditional age” (well that’s a mouthful) by Porters et al. (in press at the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 2014) examined the relationship between time of s/n (either at 2-3 months or 6-8 months) and report of both short-term and long-term behavior issues. Previous studies have suggested no problems, increased shyness in early-neutered kittens, or increased aggression and less affection in late-neutered cats. Hmm, well that’s a whole lot of mixed messages. The goal of the current study was to address some of the weaknesses of previous studies, which suffered from small sample sizes, lack of long term follow up, lack of random assignment to groups, and reliance on owner recall rather than frequent surveys of current kitten behavior.
When I started graduate school, I decided I wanted to study the cognition and behavior of wild animals in their own habitat. In my case, it's "wild" fox squirrels whose habitat happens to be a college campus.
I spend a lot of time outside with the squirrels. Sometimes it's a lot of time for very little data. Part of the reason it takes so long is that sometimes they decide they need a little siesta during an experimental session. And when this happens, there's really not much we can do...but wait. They are volunteers, after all.