Natasha Wierzal

Department

Animal Care & Horticulture

Center

Animal Welfare Science Program

Title

ZooMonitor Research Coordinator

Education

B.S. – Biological Sciences, DePaul University

Areas of Expertise

  • Animal welfare
  • Behavioral monitoring
  • Volunteer management

About

Natasha coordinates the ongoing behavioral data collection on zoo grounds for more than 30 species. Data collected through this program fuels the Animal Welfare Science Program. Natasha works closely with the zoo’s volunteer program to train volunteers to reliably collect behavioral data using the ZooMonitor app. She assists with analyzing the data that is collected and sharing the insights gained from the data with Animal Care staff to promote animal welfare.

Natasha also helps collect and analyze data from other animal welfare projects, such as monitoring the effects of environmental conditions (i.e. light, sound, temperature, etc.) on animal welfare and conducting behavioral observations of animals in their off-exhibit spaces. Natasha worked as a ZooMonitor intern and an animal welfare intern at Lincoln Park Zoo prior to her start as the ZooMonitor research coordinator.

Prior to joining Lincoln Park Zoo, Natasha worked in the evolutionary biology lab at DePaul University. While there, she first worked on a project examining vertebral length variation in different stickleback fish species and their closest relatives. The following year, she worked to develop a geographical phylogeny for a species of fish endemic to Ecuador.

Projects

Publications

  • Cairo-Evans, A., Wierzal, N.K., Wark, J.D., Cronin, K.A. (2021) Do zoo-housed primates retreat from crowds? A simple study of five primate species. American Journal of Primatology.
  • Wark, J.D., Wierzal, N.K., Cronin, K.A. (2021) Gaps in Live Inter-Observer Reliability Testing of Animal Behavior: A Retrospective Analysis and Path Forward. Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens. 2(2):207-221. https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2020014.
  • Wark, J. D., Wierzal, N. K., & Cronin, K. A. (2020). Mapping Shade Availability and Use in Zoo Environments: A Tool for Evaluating Thermal Comfort. Animals, 10(7), 1189. doi:10.3390/ani10071189.