Gwen Wirobski

PhD student
University University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna
Project at the WSC The role of oxytocin in wolves’ and dogs’ social relationships with conspecific and human partners
With us since March 2017
Favourite animal at the WSC Chitto, Tala, Amarok, Imara

After graduating from vet school in 2015, I went to the UK for an extended research internship studying social stress in Hamadryas baboons and effects of human-animal interactions on Rothschild’s giraffes in a wildlife park. During this time I came to realise how much I enjoyed behavioural and cognitive sciences and I decided to look for PhD opportunities in this field.

Having been living in Vienna for 6 years I had heard of the WSC before but never actually came to visit until last autumn. Seeing the wildlife park and coming along on a guided tour listening to one of the volunteers enthusiastically talking about the animals and colleagues convinced me that this would be an awesome place to work at. A few more months passed and there was my chance: the WSC and the Messerli Research Institute were looking for a PhD student to investigate the role of the hormone oxytocin (famously known as the “love hormone”) in dogs and wolves when they are interacting with either conspecific or human partners. I’m more than happy that I got this opportunity and have felt very welcome from the first day. 

Currently I am learning to identify the animals, observing them, helping with day-to-day duties, and working on the setup of my tests. Although three years sound like a long time, I’m sure they’ll pass really quickly – all the more reason to enjoy every minute in this beautiful place.