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Current Lab Members

Katie Willgohs - Lab Manager and Lead Researcher

Katie with dolphin

Katie is double majoring in Psychology and Animal Studies, with a minor in Environmental Studies.  She grew up visiting facilities such as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Dolphin Research Center, Dolphins Plus, and SeaWorld which sparked her love for animals.  Katie started in the ECCPL as a First Year Research Associate, and she continues working with other students in the Dog Cognition Lab to conduct research studies, such as examining creative abilities in dogs as well object permanence capabilities in dogs.  Katie is also assisting Prof. Highfill with elephant research as a research intern at ZooTampa. Before starting at the zoo, dolphins were her favorite animals, but elephants are quickly working their way into her heart.  Katie’s favorite part about working in the lab is attending the International Conference on Comparative Cognition every year, as this is a great opportunity to meet others in the field and learn about their projects. After graduating, Katie hopes to earn her doctorate in comparative psychology and use it to educate others on animal conservation and the importance of zoos.

Michele Chaky -  Lead Researcher 
michele
Michele is triple majoring in Psychology, French, and Animal Studies.  She first started working as a First Year Research Associatestudying dog behavior and cognition in the Eckerd College Dog Lab.  Her love for animals started when she was 10 and first swam with dolphins.  She spent the following years visiting places such as Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Dolphin Research Center, and GulfWorld Marine Park. She completed a marine mammal training internship with Southern Sea Otters at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. She currently is a behavioral research intern at ZooTampa studying the effect of up-close encounters on guests' conservation habits.  After graduating, Michele wishes to spend the rest of her life with animals and apply her knowledge from Eckerd and ECCPL to educate the public on marine mammals, animal behavior, and conservation. 
Katie Keck -  Lead Researcher 
Katie with octopus
Katie is a senior at Eckerd, majoring in Psychology and Animal Studies. Her passion for studying animals and animal behavior was sparked by visiting facilities like Animal Kingdom and the Seas at Walt Disney World, the Atlantis resort, and local zoos and aquariums throughout her childhood. Katie's first experience in animal research was with Eckerd College Dolphin Project as part of the Marine Science First Year Research Program. After discovering her passion for comparative psychology she switched majors from Marine Science to Psychology and joined the ECCPL in her Sophomore Year. That year, she helped with data collection on their dog object permanence study, then did a husbandry internship in the fish and invertebrate department of the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Katie is currently a Ford Apprentice Scholar with Professor Highfill as her sponsor. She is conducting her research for this program at ZooTampa studying the efficacy of the facility's encounter programs and conservation pledges in producing conservation-based behaviors in guests. Along with this study, Katie does coding for ECCPL current project  on stress-levels in on-campus dogs. After graduating this spring, Katie hopes to attend a doctoral program in comparative psychology and do research on cephalopod behavior.
  
Jenna Williams - Project Assistant

Jenna with pug
Jenna is double majoring in Animal Studies and Psychology with a minor in Biology. As a First Year Research Associate, Jenna is working with other students on studying dog welfare in dorms versus houses. She has a research internship with ZooTampa this summer where she will be studying the impact certain exhibits and experiences have on the willingness of visitors to reduce their plastic waste. Jenna grew up visiting many zoos, like the St. Louis Zoo and the San Diego Zoo, but her love for animals started with her first pet dog when she was three. After graduating, Jenna hopes to earn her graduate degree in animal studies and work to improve the lives of animals
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Kailee Anderson - Project Assistant
Kailee with dog
Kailee is a major in Biology with a double minor in Chemistry and Mathematics. She has always had a strong love for animals, and a passion to learn more about them. Currently Kailee is working towards becoming a veterinarian for exotic animals, and has hopes of attending the University of Florida Veterinary School. Kailee has a vast amount of experience working with animals, especially dogs. Back home in Illinois she works for a daycare and boarding facility called Paradise 4 Paws, and has taken classes through FetchFind, which she hopes to use to become a certified dog trainer. Once finished with Veterinary School, Kailee hopes to open her own practice including a shelter. 
Kayla Fulkerson - Video Observer and Data Entry
kayla with giraffe
 
Kayla is an Animals Studies major, minoring in Psychology and Leadership Studies. Growing up with 3 cats around the house, and visiting facilities like The Denver Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay she has loved animals from a young age. For multiple summers in high school, Kayla participated in the Zoo, and Vet Careers camps at Busch Gardens allowing her to gain experience working with animals like elephants, tigers, general hoofstock, hippos, rhinos, cheetahs, and many more. This furthered her love for animals, and inspired her to become an advocate for conservation of species. After graduating, she wants to pursue a career in animal care or zoo education and conservation.
Adrianna Pulido - Video Observer and Data Entry 
Adrianna with dolphin
Adrianna is a double major in Animal Studies and Psychology. During the summer, she will be doing an internship at Croc Encounters maintaining the habitats of the animals. Adrianna grew up in a small town, but her love for marine life started when she was very young and spent her summers in Florida with her aunt and uncle. After graduating, she hopes to work as an animal trainer. She aspires to one day open her own dolphin-assisted therapy facility for children/adolescents with disabilities.