Rachel Dale, Phd.
Favourite animal at WSC: There are so many good ones to choose from, like Wamblee’s uniqueness and Meru’s goofiness! But I will always have a soft spot for Aragorn, he’s smart, always motivated to work, and has a wry sense of humour.
I am a post-doc researcher at the WSC working on prosociality and cooperation in dogs and wolves. During my PhD here, I investigated whether dogs and wolves show positive social behaviours towards each other such as helping, sharing and giving. These behaviours form the basis for altruism in humans which allows us to support one another, including strangers and it’s thought that other social species may also show these tendencies. Canines are very social animals; with wolves often working together to hunt and raise puppies. The results so far show that both wolves and dogs will sometimes share and help each other, but it depends on the relationship with the other individual, such as how close their friendship is. I’m now looking at which other things can affect when dogs and wolves will give to each other or work together to solve a problem. Here you can find more information about my project at the WSC.
Former experience: I am originally from Scotland where I studied Psychology and completed research on cross-cultural differences in the development of human infants. I then did a Masters in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology. During my Masters I studied African elephants for my research project and then went on to work as a research assistant on Asian elephant cognition. This work with elephants was great experience in studying animals that are very different from us humans. I love the challenge of designing research for animals that see the world in a very different was to us and I am also fascinated by social behaviours. These interests led me here, to studying the social behaviour of dogs and wolves where I can embrace the challenge of designing novel research ideas to study an area of canine social behaviour that has not been studied before. Plus I get to spend my days working with wolves in a beautiful setting!