Conservation & Science Staff Bios

Kathy Wagner

  David Bohnett Foundation Ape Cognition Research Assistant
Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes

Education

  • B.S. – University of Wisconsin

About Kathy Wagner:

At the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes Kathy uses touch-screen technology to explore the cognitive abilities of the chimpanzees and gorillas living at Regenstein Center for African Apes (RCAA). Current computer-based research projects explore the ability of great apes to sequence arbitrary images as well as their sensitivity to changes in the orientation of another’s visual attention.

Building on an interest in the behavioral expression of cognition, Kathy is also manager of the Fisher Center's behavioral monitoring project, which uses handheld computers to gather data on the daily behavior patterns of apes at RCAA. To date the project has amassed more than 5,000 hours of data collected on a daily basis by a stalwart staff of volunteer interns who also aid many of the center’s other research projects. Kathy and her colleagues use this database to address a range of scientific and applied questions, including a recent examination of ape reactions to changes in housing environments.

Her other research interests broadly relate to conceptual knowledge—especially knowledge activated in social contexts, including the distinction between self and other—and the understanding of intentionality and belief states. Kathy is especially drawn to the challenge of building methodologies to address cognitive hypotheses. In her career, she hopes to incorporate work with new technologies to enhance observational and experimental approaches both in the field and in zoos. She's particularly interested in exploring how artificial systems can be used to model cognition.

While Kathy’s current focus is the cognitive tool-kit of the great apes, she is also eager to explore these areas from a cross-species perspective, as influenced by her experiences with birds, cetaceans, pinnipeds and other primates.

Kathy holds a B.S. in psychology and classics from the University of Wisconsin. With Fisher Center Director Steve Ross, Ph.D., she maintains the Primate Cognition email group, which focuses on the use of computerized approaches in noninvasive cognition research. If you’re interested in subscribing to the list, please contact her at kwagner@lpzoo.org.

Publications

E. R. Boeving, M. A. Shender, K. E. Wagner, S. R. Ross 2013. A behavioral evaluation of pregnant zoo-housed gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). American Journal of Primatology. 75(S1), 77.

Chelluri, G.I., Ross, S.R. and Wagner, K.E. 2013. Behavioral correlates and welfare implications of informal interactions between caretakers and zoo-housed chimpanzees and gorillas. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 147: 306-315.

S. E. Henley, M. A. Shender, K. E. Wagner, S. R. Ross 2013. Behavioral development in a new group of bachelor gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). American Journal of Primatology. 75(S1), 77.

M. H. Brown, M. A. Shender, K. E. Wagner, S. R. Ross 2013. Potential factors associated with stereotyped ear-covering behavior in an adolescent male gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). American Journal of Primatology. 75 (S1), 49.

Wagner, K.E., and Ross, S.R. 2012. Association between cognitive test performance and disposition to arousal in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). American Journal of Primatology, 74 S1: 66.

Fitzpatrick, M.C., Wagner K.E., Ross S.R. 2012. Behavioral changes associated with sexual state in zoo-living chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). American Journal of Primatology, 74 S1: 39.

Kurtycz, LM, Wagner, KE, Ross, SR, Lonsdorf, EV. 2011. Behavioral effects of providing a choice for outdoor access to captive gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). American Journal of Primatology, 73(S1): 68.

Ross, S.R., Wagner, K.E., Schapiro, S.J., Hau, J., and Lukas, K.E. 2011. Transfer and acclimatization effects on the behavior of two species of African great ape moved to a novel and naturalistic zoo environment. International Journal of Primatology, 32: 99-117.

Wagner, K.E. and Ross, S.R. 2010. Advances in the use of computerized technology in ape cognitive research. American Journal of Primatology, 72: S1: 67.

Ross, S.R., Wagner, K.E., Schapiro, S.J., and Hau, J. 2010. Ape behavior in two alternating environments: comparing exhibit and short-term holding areas. American Journal of Primatology. 71: 1-9.

Fenn, T.E., S.R. Ross, K. Wagner. 2010. Behavioral effects of female immigration on solitary and bachelor group male gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). American Journal of Primatology, 72: S1: 71.

Ross, S.R., Wagner, K.E., Schapiro, S.J. and Hau, J. 2010. Differential ape behavior in two alternating environments: Comparing behavior in exhibit and short-term holding spaces. American Journal of Primatology, 72: 951-959.

Wagner, K.E. and S.R. Ross. 2009. Sequencing performance and error trends in gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). American Journal of Primatology, 71, Supplement 1: 35.

Ross, S.R., Bloomsmith, M.A., Bettinger, T.M., and Wagner, K.E. 2009. Wounding patterns in adolescent male chimpanzees: management and welfare implications. Zoo Biology, 28: 623-634.

Wagner, K.E. and Ross, S.R. 2008. Association between self-directed behaviors and performance in a cognitive sequencing task in a female chimpanzee. American Journal of Primatology, 70:55.

Wagner, K. and Ross, S.R. 2008. Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) birth patterns and human presence in zoological settings. American Journal of Primatology, 70: 1-4.

Ross, S.R. and Wagner, K.E. 2008. Differential behavior patterns in zoo-housed apes between exhibits and holding: Effects on welfare assessment. American Journal of Primatology, 70:41.

Ross, S.R., Wagner, K.E., Lonsdorf, E.V. 2008. Preliminary evidence for sequential list-learning by a western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla): Performance measures and analysis of errors. Primate Eye, 96.