Conservation & Science Staff Bios
David Bohnett Foundation Ape Cognition Research Assistant
Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.