Animal Behavior Laboratory


International Institute for Human-Animal Networks

Mission Statement

Our institute conducts research on the health, well-being, and conservation of animals in managed environments, provides outreach to nonprofit and governmental organizations through informed consultation, and trains staff and students at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels.

Patterns of health within human and animal societies and across different multispecies communities represent emergent global patterns whose underlying dynamics must be understood to better tackle complex health issues. Our goal is to employ evolutionary and social network theories for practical applications at the human-animal interface using a transdisciplinary framework comprised of computational biology, genomics, epidemiology and behavioral ecology. We seek to understand how spatial and mathematical relations of networks relate to the content and quality of relationships and how such variation influences a diversity of health outcomes.

We are unique in that we are developing innovative multi-scale computational techniques that will provide greater insight into how and why basic genomic, behavioral and social processes influence specific health outcomes as well as overall health and well-being. The application of these approaches involves a broad commodity base including wildlife, captive exotics, biomedical animals, livestock production systems, and companion animals.

Current Projects

United States
Projects include the study of how adverse health outcomes (e.g., inter-animal aggression, self-inflicted trauma, immune suppression, communicable diseases) are the consequence of hierarchical and multidimensional elements comprising social networks. These projects include captive exotics/biomedical animals such as chimpanzees and rhesus macaques, wildlife such as ground-dwelling squirrels and humpback whales, and domesticated species such as beef cattle. We also work with several zoos in buiding capaciy for behavioral and well-being montoring to inform animal management decision making.

Studies in Africa expand our use of social network theory to examine the pathways of pathogen transmission involving ungulates in African rangeland ecosystems (Kenya) in species such as endangered black rhinoceros, endangered Jackson’s hartebeest, plains zebra, impala, eland, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, buffalo, giraffe, and cattle. Other projects focus on the use of network dynamics to develop best management practices for enhancing the health and well-being of sanctuary chimpanzees in Kenya and Zambia.

Studies focus on using social network and other theories to develop population management strategies for Indian rhesus macaques in captive and urban environments. The aims of these interdisciplinary projects are to characterize the dynamic processes underlying human-rhesus conflict (“monkey menace”) in India to inform the creation of conflict mitigation policy, thereby enhancing both human and wildlife health at this interface.

China currently houses over 300,000 biomedical macaques representing an unprecedented opportunity to partner with a future hub of primate translational research. Projects focus on developing best management practices to enhance the health and well-being of biomedical nonhuman primates across China.

We welcome your inquiry and interest! Please direct questions and comments to Dr. Brenda McCowan at

To see who we are working with across the globe, visit our Affiliation page!

Photo: Capacity Building Workshops

Capacity Building Workshops

"Transforming Stakeholder Conflict at the Human-Animal Interface"

IIHAN was pleased to host the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (HWCC) for their 5 day capacity building workshop, 18-22 March 2013 at Oakland Zoo, conducted by Francine Madden. This workshop drew upon the best practices for addressing complex issues within the human-animal interface and cultivating sustainable solutions, and was attended by 20 local and international participants from NGO, State, and Federal institutions/agencies! Please check in for future Capacity Building Workshops! 

If you or your institution are interested in co-hosting a Capacity Building workshop with IIHAN, we would love to hear from you!