Animal Behavior department celebrates its 50th anniversary

The University’s Department of Animal Behavior celebrated its 50th Anniversary this past weekend with a variety of events including a welcome reception and poster presentation session on Nov. 2. Speeches, a tour of the Animal Behavior Facilities, and a closing reception were also held on Nov. 3. Some of the posters on Friday night featured research about the self-control abilities of squirrel monkeys, the behavior of bees, and the relationship between fish and mussels. At the event on Saturday, the University welcomed alumni who majored in animal behavior back on campus to speak about their career paths. The speakers on Saturday included Professor Alan Ian Leshner, Rebecca A. Packer ’93, Alex Piel ’01, Mandy Revak ’04, Jenny (Bohrman) Wong ’08, and John Cullum ’08.

Presenter Mara Vinnik ’19 said, “The anniversary has been such a great opportunity for networking. Since we have a small program here, this has been life-changing because seniors got to meet with all the alumni speakers for Saturday.”

The Animal Behavior Program at the University was the first undergraduate major in animal behavior. According to Professor of Psychology and Animal Behavior Reggie Gazes, “I think the fact that this program is still around and active 50 years after its founding is a testament to the power of this type of interdisciplinary approach to the science. Our program is also heavily based on faculty and student research in the field of animal behavior. This keeps the program fresh and relevant and helps the students connect what they are learning in the classroom to the real world.”

The University’s program is unique because it also allows students majoring in biology, psychology, or neuroscience to combine different aspects of their studies into one focus.

“There’s no doubt in people’s minds that for a school of this size to have a program like this is truly extraordinary. You typically would not find undergraduates involved in this kind of work, it is really exemplary of what makes Bucknell special,” President John Bravman said.

One of the reasons that the University hosted these speakers on campus was to introduce both parents, students, and members of the community to the wide variety of career paths available to students who chose to pursue a degree in animal behavior. Gazes also added that, “The number one question we get asked by parents is ‘what will my child do with an animal behavior degree?’ This celebration will bring together students and alumni from the past 50 years. These alums represent a huge array of career trajectories, from veterinarians to artists, to wildlife researchers, to folks working in non-profits, to entrepreneurs. Bringing everyone together in one place for this weekend will allow our students to see all the options available to them.”

An animal behavior student and attendee of the weekend celebration Kailyn Carr ’22 said, “It’s an honor to be a part of such a great program because it’s lasted so long and it means a lot to a lot of different people and you can go a lot of different ways with it. It’s a very beneficial experience for first-year students.”

Maddie Knott ’19, a poster presenter on Friday, said, “It’s a great opportunity for people who are doing research. I really enjoyed getting to talk to professionals and see what they’re doing and learn about having a career in this field.”

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