Primate Research Group

WCU Primate Research Group is a student research group in the lab of Dr. Rebecca Chancellor at West Chester University interested in understanding the effects of human visitors on captive western lowland gorilla behavior at the Philadelphia Zoo.

The effect of the presence of zoo visitors on non-human primates has received increased attention over the last decade as primatologists, behavioral biologists, and animal caretakers have attempted to design exhibits that increasingly take into account the welfare of the primates they house. Our student research group is examining the gorillas’ activity budgets and stress-related behaviors in both crowded and non-crowded visitor conditions. Specifically we are looking at:

  1. Whether crowd size is correlated with affiliative, aggressive, and/or stereotypic gorilla behavior
  2. Whether child visitors in particular influence gorilla behavior

These data will be compared to data from other captive gorilla studies to broaden our understanding of the environmental factors (e.g., group composition, visitor numbers) that might mitigate or exacerbate the effects of zoo visitors on primate behavior.

Members of this student research group may earn Psychology Department course credit (PSY410 Research in Psychology). Students receive training in observational research methods and the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in primatology outside of the classroom. Students are expected to visit the Philadelphia Zoo once a week for a duration of two hours and participate in weekly lab meetings in order to receive research credit. If you are interested in becoming involved in the research group for credit please contact Dr. Chancellor one semester in advance at rchancellor@wcupa.edu.

Current members of the research group:

Alex Strandberg
Psychology undergraduate
Project Founder
Research Lab Manager

Christina Pavia
Psychology undergraduate
Project Founder
Research Lab Manager

Tara Fitzgerals
Psychology, B.A.

Emanuel Ramirez
Psychology undergraduate

Sommer Ainsworth
Psychology undergraduate

Masataka Mitsuzuka
Psychology undergraduate

Sean‎ Bramley
Anthropology undergraduate

Shivali‎ Saxena
Psychology undergraduate

Madeline Przywara
Psychology undergraduate

Former members of the research group:

Natalie Jung
Psychology, B.A.
Project Founder

West Chester University Department of Psychology