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Faculty Spotlight: Katie Kalafut and Little Penguin Tracking for Better Health

Katie Kalafut, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Antioch College, is a behavioral scientist engaged in conducting research outside of the classroom–some of which has recently been highlighted by the Cincinnati Zoo!

Katie has been collaborating with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden to better understand and enhance captive animal welfare through behavioral data collection and environmental manipulations. This collaborative effort has produced various research projects for both Katie and Antioch students interested in conducting behavioral research. Katie’s research at the zoo is focused on the identification of the effects of changes in swimming behavior on the prevalence and severity of bumblefoot in Little Blue penguins.

Katie explains:

The goal of this research is to quantify the relationship between swimming behavior and the prevalence and severity of bumblefoot lesions. That is, to identify how much swimming is required to reduce/eliminate bumblefoot of varying degrees of severity. This knowledge can inform institutional best practices regarding the amount of swimming appropriate based on the presence or severity of bumblefoot for individual birds. . . Radio Frequency Identification (RF-ID) tags [are used] to collect continuous data on individual penguins. Each penguin is outfitted with an RF-ID tag (about the size a grain of rice) on a wing band. Four antennae that pick up the unique electronic frequency from the tags are strategically placed around the pool. The antenna records the unique tag number (identifying which penguin), which antenna, the date, and the time. This allows to us to ‘see’ exactly when the penguins are entering and exiting the pool.

Learn more about Katie and her work here.

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