IMG_0394Primate Behavior Management Conference

The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center

Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research

Bastrop, TX March 1-4, 2016


The Conference is organized by Steve Schapiro to bring forth the science that drives behavioral management. The four-day conference is composed of scientific experts who present the methodology of their work, combined with implementation experts that display examples of practical application in primate care, and vendors who have innovative products and services to support refinement initiatives. The group of attendees is small, ensuring the opportunity for connections and collaborations that improve the quality of care and science for captive primates.



Below is a summary of the individual speakers in attendance;


John Capitanio, PhD (CNPRC)

Individual Variation in Bio-behavioral Organization

Bio-behavioral organization involves the integration of the animal’s behavioral, physiological and social systems and is a methodology that looks at the whole animal relevant to behavioral management.


Melanie Graham, MPH, PhD (University of Minnesota)

Positive Reinforcement Training and Research

Dr. Graham presented positive impacts to the animal and the science after animals are trained to cooperate with study procedures in a Diabetes research study. Improved animal care/handling improves the science!


Carrie Schultz, PhD (LabDiet)

Presentation focused on nutritional enrichment that fits the needs of the study and the animal. Emphasis on healthy species-specific food items. Dr. Schultz highlighted LabDiet’s new low-starch diet and collaborative work being done to explore the benefits of probiotics and omega 3 fatty acids for chronic diarrhea and alopecia.


Brenda McCowan, PhD (CNPRC)

Using Systems network analysis for understanding complexity in primate behavioral management

A system network analysis is used to assess colony dynamics; looking at behaviors such as silent bared-teeth displays, groom and aggression can help behaviorally manage primate colonies. Dr. McCowan’s recent work has identified that increased social relationships are linked to lower rates of diarrhea, inflammation and shigella transmission (McCowan, in prep for publish)


Eric Huthchinson, DVM, DACLAM (NIH)

Maladaptive Coping Strategies in Artificially stressful environments: Life as a Lab Animal Vet

Dr. Hutchinson, representing veterinarians in a behavioral conference, presented scenarios to help address communication barriers between Veterinarians and Behavioral staff. Focused on promoting effective communication during the construction of animal experimentation protocols and in response to behavior or problems. In addition, Dr. Hutchinson presented the use of pharmacological agents to address abnormal behavior.


Bill Hopkins, PhD (Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University)

Neurogenomic Basis of Social Cognition in Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees are an important part of behavioral, psychological and neurological research. Dr. Hopkins described neuroscience research studies including genetic & neurological predispositions for why animals behave in different ways- reviewed structural MRI comparisons that represent different behavioral syndromes.


Liz Magden, DVM, MS, DACLAM, cVMA (MD Anderson Cancer Center)

Positive Reinforcement Training (PRT) and Health Care in Nonhuman Primates

Encourages the use of PRT to facilitate vet procedures; reducing sedation, providing mental stimulation, and encouraging cooperation, while increasing efficiency & safety for the animal handler. PRT to conduct procedures can have improved clinical & research results. Dr. Magden highlighted applications of wound care, diabetes monitoring, opthalmic/otoscopic evaluation, medication delivery (PO, IM, IV, SQ, Eye ointment), acupuncture, laser therapy and the use of implantable loop recorder, conducted using PRT technique.


Kris Coleman, PhD (ONPRC)

Individual Differences in Temperament and Behavioral Management

Dr. Coleman reviewed methods for assessing temperament and how it can be used in behavioral management. Temperament is described as the animals personality in response to the environment. It is measured, on a scale of inhibited-to-bold, using a human intruder test and novel stimuli assessment. Temperament can be used in behavioral management programs to select animal compatibility for social housing and trainability.


Chris Rogers, (Envigo, Teklad Diets)

Diet Selection to reduce Research variables

Chris Rogers presented diet options that ensure quality research! He emphasized the importance of fixed diet rations to control research variables.


Nancy Caine, PhD (California State University, San Marcos)

Anti-predator behavior in primates (and why it matters in captivity)

A review of primate predation: and how it is innate for primates to act in a way that protects themselves from threat of danger, regardless of environment. Dr. Caine presented research with marmosets that showed monkeys to have increased anti-predation response to an artificial snake stimulus, and could be compared to laboratory studies in the presence of human care-takers.

Lydia M Hopper, PhD (Lincoln Park Zoo)

Social Learning and Decision Making

Social learning is behavior exhibited as a result of prior experiences. Social learning exists when a primate is shown a behavior, then they imitate it in that way. Dr. Hopper presented her research with monkeys and children who repeated what they had previously observed. This can be a helpful tool when training animals; primates have an improved rate of learning when they have watched another primate perform the same behavior. To the contrary, if prior experiences were poor it will be more difficult to train animals (or for animals to learn) to do that technique.




Melinda Novak, PhD (UMass Amherst)

Stress, Hair loss and Abnormal Behavior

This presentation provided a historical and regulatory review of abnormal behavior and the latest information on advancements in understanding, diagnosing and responding to stereotypes; alopecia and self-injurious behavior. Comparison of cortisol sampling methods and the use of hair cortisol as a marker of chronic stress.


Teresa Woodger (Lomir Biomedical)

Product Overview: Non-human Primate Applications

Review of jacket varieties and various applications; tether, infusion, telemetry/monitoring, wound protection, video monitoring, ECG and respiratory monitoring bands. Other products include enrichment, restraint equipment (gloves, nets) and Lomir can provide you with customizable products to fit your needs.


Keely McGrew, CVT, RLATG (Charles River Laboratories)

Pairing Non-Human Primates

Provided a review of pair housing literature and the method used at CRL that has resulted in a 99% pair housing success rate for cynomolgus macaques less than 5 years old and an 83% success rate improved to 91% with temperament testing of adult males, greater than 5. Novel toy and Temperament Test (PAIR-T). This presentation created a dynamic in the audience by asking questions and asking for experience


Carol Shively, PhD (Wake Forest University)

Depression, Behavior, Physiology and Therapeutics

Review of the state of depression in primates and physiological characteristics that may be harmful to animal welfare and to the research. Carol’s work shows that animals with depression may have higher rates of atherosclerosis and mortality. Reviewed methodologies for observation, documentation and quantification of behavior and discussed methods to prevent and treat depressive behaviors in primates.


Rob Thayer (Unifab Corp.)

Products for animal clinical care and biomedical research.

Presented caging and products including standard caging with social hosing panels, EU standard caging, group housing units, jump boxes and capture equipment. Unifab also has many small equipment products to support biomedical research, including cage locks, medical gavage tubing and enrichment products. Rob states “there are a lot of good caging companies out there; Unifab prides themselves with helping you with your customized needs”


Jonny Yan (Tyrex software)

New iPad application tool for the assessment of nonhuman primates

Review of a new iPad application (available on itunes) for behavioral monitoring that includes a user-friendly interface for documenting timed focal observations, novel toy assessment and quantifiable mapping of hair loss using a 9% scale.






Jeff Rogers, PhD (Baylor College of Medicine)

Epigenetics and Behavioral Genetics.

Review of Epigenetics: the heritability of behavior passed down to future generations. Genetic factors influence behavior and neurobiology and thinking about genetic factors can help implement behavioral management strategies; heritability will increase the likelihood that a behavior repeats. Presented genetic markers associated with major depression and anxiety in humans and NHPs.


Steve Schapiro, PhD (MD Anderson Cancer Center)

Research Collaborations and Behavioral Management

Evaluations using novel & non-invasive technologies to determine benefits to the care & welfare of the animal (examples include thermal imaging and acupuncture). Review of the NIH-funded research and retirement for chimpanzees- including work that supports that participation in biomedical research can be beneficial and enriching to the research subject as well as to the science.


Susan (Lambeth) Pavonetti, B.A., RLATG (MD Anderson Cancer Center)

Program Management

Review of management and enrichment care practices that focus on improved communication, and overcoming obstacles in order to make refinements that involve all members of the animal care/research team. Review of the literature, and discussed how to use the language to make above minimum plans to accommodate animal needs. Susan encourages a proactive program.



Almost all of the speakers at the PBMC have authored chapters in the upcoming Handbook of Primate Behavioral Management, edited by Steve Schapiro, to be published in 2017.