Conservation & Science Staff Bios

Laura Kurtycz, M.A.

  Research Assistant
Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes


  • M.A. – Behavioral Effects of Providing a Choice for Outdoor Access for Captive Gorillas, University of Chicago
  • B.A. – University of Wisconsin

Areas of Expertise

  • Ape behavior

About Laura Kurtycz:

Laura received her B.A. in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin, where she majored in biological anthropology and Chinese. After graduation, she joined Teach for America and spent two years teaching kindergarten and first grade on the south side of Chicago. In summer 2009, she spent one month volunteering at a baboon sanctuary in South Africa, which reignited her love for studying primates.

Laura began working at the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of African Apes in December 2010 as a part of the behavioral monitoring project. During her time as an intern, she completed her master’s degree, using the Fisher Center’s behavioral-monitoring dataset to write her thesis on the effect of outdoor access on gorillas. In November 2011, she joined the Social Spacing project.

Laura is currently working on behavioral economics studies with Lydia Hopper, Ph.D., and is running the Goualougo Video Lab in collaboration with Crickette Sanz, Ph.D., and Dave Morgan, Ph.D.


Hopper, L.M., Kurtycz, L.M., Ross, S.R., & Bonnie, K.E. 2015. Captive chimpanzee foraging in a social setting: a test of problem solving, flexibility, and spatial discounting. PeerJ 3, e833.

Kurtycz LM, Shender MA, Ross SR   2014. The birth of an infant decrease group spacing in a zoo-housed lowland gorilla group (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Zoo Biology 33(5): 471-474.

Kurtycz, LM, Wagner, KE and Ross, SR. 2014. The choice to access outdoor areas affects the behavior of zoo-housed great apes. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.17(3):185-97.

L. M. Kurtycz, M. A. Shender, S. R. Ross 2013. Changes in western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) group cohesion following the birth of a baby. American Journal of Primatology. 75(S1), 89.

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.