Adaptability: To survive and thrive

Kathryn Roddie (Intern)



Adapting to changes of a circumstance is a concept that is required by all living organisms, including wolves and humans, in order to thrive and survive. At the Wolf Science Centre, every single human has to adapt to the changing situations from day to day, including both the trainers and interns. My work as a scientific intern can move in different directions each day. The day can range from creating new apparatuses for incoming projects, upgrading existing ones to make them more functional, analysing and sorting data from old projects as well as learning ongoing experiments as I may need to run at some point. While I don’t run my own project like other scientific interns, being allowed to immerse myself in a variety of projects and seeing how the trainers care for the wolves is an amazing experience that I have been granted.

Along with humans, wolves are a prime example of an animal that is adaptable. They have evolved to be at home in a range of habitats, from the high mountains of the Himalayas to the Arctic Tundra, with physiological adaptations. However, working with different experiments over the past months has shown an insight to their cognitive and behavioural abilities that may had aided in becoming such an adaptable species. For working out where food is and how to access the food when hindered by a puzzle to their reaction to different stimuli. It is truly fascinating to see how cognitive ability can range between the wolves (and of course, dogs), some excelling in one experiment while finding another more difficult, or in some cases they may find the experiment not to their taste. Many amusing and frustrating stories have been shared between the scientific staff and interns about the canines when they are not invested in the experiment or have taken longer to grasp the idea. I have my own tales of freezing extremities waiting for the wolf or dog to complete the session, but these seem trivial with the memories I have of watching them howling in the snow, tapping their front paws in anticipation, and leaping to catch their food prize from mid-air. Their mental abilities, personalities, and responses can be as varied as humans when interacting with the experiments, the interns, and the trainers. Pack visits are one of my favourite activities of the week. Getting first hand viewing of the diversity of behaviours and personality shining through when the wolves and dogs interact with the trainers and sometimes the interns. Having a wolf touch their nose to my fist and holding a wolf’s paw are memories I will cherish once I have gone. As I spend more time here, the more I enjoy the variety of characters that call the WSC their home. No two wolves are the same here, even if at the beginning some appear very similar to others. I look forward everyday to see what new situations arises at the WSC and of course, what antics the wolves and dogs may do that will brighten up the day