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Animal behaviour conference puts U of T Scarborough on the map

Conference co-organizer Maydianne Andrade says that the event will bring together world-leading experts in animal behaviour as well as university students and even elementary students. (Photo by Ken Jones)

More than 750 experts in animal behaviour from across the globe will gather at U of T Scarborough June 12 to 16 for the largest conference ever held on campus.

The 54th annual conference of the Animal Behavior Society, hosted by Professor Maydianne Andrade and Professor Andrew Mason of the Department of Biological Sciences, will bring together leading researchers from North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

After two years of planning, Andrade and Mason say they’re excited to showcase U of T Scarborough for their international colleagues. “Our larger goal is to put UTSC on the map for animal behaviour,” says Andrade.

The breadth of high-profile researchers attending and presenting at the conference has attracted significant media attention from science journalists. The Discovery Channel will be on campus all week doing interviews, among other TV and radio outlets.

The Animal Behavior Society has ensured that students will also get the rare opportunity to hear from world-class scientists, offering a reduced registration fee to graduate students and a special program for undergraduates. “The undergrad program is specifically aimed at students from underrepresented groups, and students who are the first generation to attend university. Not only will they get to go to various presentations, but they’ll also attend practical sessions on how to apply to grad school, how to present their research and other key issues. It’s meant to mentor students who might not otherwise have a lot of models for getting into the academic world.”

In addition to welcoming students, the conference has invited the local community to two special events. About 60 elementary school students are invited to the “Adventures in Animal Behaviour” outreach fair on Monday, and there are 100 tickets to the animal behaviour film festival on Tuesday evening reserved for students and the public (priced at just $5).

While many previous conferences of the Animal Behavior Society were held in big cities, Andrade says the organizers have capitalized on U of T Scarborough’s many large social spaces to help bring attendees together. “We’ve made sure that every evening there’s a relaxed gathering at different spots on campus – for example a pub on the patio after the film festival – where people can convene and chat about what they heard during the day. The informal conversations are often the best at these events, sparking really exciting insight from people.”

The Animal Behavior Society, founded in 1964, promotes the study of animal behaviour in the broadest sense. Members’ research areas span the invertebrates and vertebrates, both in the field and the lab, and include experimental psychology, behavioral ecology, neuroscience, zoology, biology, applied ethology, human ethology as well as many other specialized areas.

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