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Classical Conditioning Case Study

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Animal behavior studies have supplied valuable information to wildlife management and conservation efforts for decades. Details of mating systems have determined acceptable harvest seasons and limits, migration and dispersal patterns have directed the locations and sizes of preserves, and mechanisms of imprinting related to mate and kin recognition and food and habitat selection have aided captive breeding and reintroduction programs.

Until recently, however, behavioral approaches to conservation problems were largely underemphasized. Conservation biologists are interested in pursuing questions specifically concerning the loss of biodiversity while animal behaviorists/behavioral ecologists are more focused on questions concerning the evolutionary selection pressures that influence behavior. In the past several years there has been an emerging realization from both groups that understanding behavior is not only useful, but crucial in some areas of conservation.

Below we provide examples of behavioral studies that not only have clear implications for conservation but make substantial contributions to the field of behavioral ecology. First, we highlight two studies that provided direct behavioral observations which informed the management of a particular species. Second, we include studies that employed classical conditioning methods to invoke predator recognition and avoidance in prey species and as a non-lethal method of predator control. Finally, we describe two studies that demonstrate the potential for using behavior as an indicator of environmental quality. Each set of case studies is followed by references to the literature.

Studies

  1. Animal behavior research informs conservation efforts
  2. Classical conditioning finds many uses in conservation
  3. Behavior as an indicator of environmental quality

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