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.

India, Malaysia & Thailand
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.

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!