For Dr. Brian Ogle, summer break didn’t mean a break from blinding us with science.
Ogle — chair of the Beacon College humanities department and one of the nation’s leading anthrozoologists — assembled a crack quartet of student researchers to help enhance zoological animal management by studying stingray behavior.
The project, in partnership with Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, aims to reduce aggression in individual stingrays housed in multi-species exhibits through the use of varying enrichment schedules. In the study, “enrichment” is defined as “as novel objects or experiences designed to elicit more natural behaviors from the animals,” Ogle said.
His team is examining changes in animal behavior with an emphasis on pro-social behaviors and behaviors often used as an indicator of welfare through the use of enrichment.
“Behavior has been demonstrated to be an important indicator of animal welfare,” Ogle said. “When measures of behavior are combined with other indicators of welfare, it helps to create a powerful tool for assessing welfare and meeting institutional goals relating to animal management.”
Ogle credited four Beacon students — Allana Wheeler, Shona Devlin, Annabel DeSmet, and Ben McShane — with performing most of the heavy lifting. They developed the topic, designed the study’s framework and tools, and completed the background research for the project that the college’s Institutional Review Board approved.
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is an administrative body that sanctions research projects involving human subjects and protects the rights of those recruited to participate in the college’s research.
The research will provide additional information and insight into welfare monitoring systems for non-mammals, Ogle said.
With the Association of Zoos and Aquariums continuing emphasize welfare as part of the accreditation process, he said “additional knowledge will be needed by animal care teams to routinely assess the welfare of the animals under their care. Applied research is essential in understanding and developing welfare programs to meet the needs of all animals found in zoological institutions.”
The student quartet remains actively involved in the study. They will work with Ogle over the next several weeks to analyze videodata and complete completing observations at the aquarium.
Ogle anticipates that the project will result in an academic publication and conference presentation.