Past Students

Sarah Nadler

It was under her guidance that the Eckerd College Comparative Psychology was created! During Sarah's four years at Eckerd, she volunteered at several animal care facilities including the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary and Southeast Guide Dogs Inc. She was also a manatee specialist at the South Florida Museum's Parker Aquarium where she cared for and trained Snooty the manatee. Sarah assisted Professor Highfill on cognitive studies with a variety of animals including: dogs, sea lions, and lemurs. After Eckerd she received her M.Ed. and Ed.S. degrees in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Florida. She is now back in St. Petersburg working as an adventure therapist and often brings her registered therapy dog to sessions!

Cassi Lyon

Cassi graduated from Eckerd with a double major in Psychology and International Relations and a Chinese minor. As part of ECCPL, she served as a student observer for the gorillas at Busch Gardens, Tampa. Through this experience she learned how to create and fill out behavioral ethograms concerning the eating behaviors of two of the park’s gorillas. She also volunteered at the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART) for the three years, where she was able to work with horses and amazing children and adults with physical or mental disabilities. She then worked at Disney's Animal Kingdom as a behavioral researcher. She is now getting her PhD at Arizona State University in their Biology and Society program. She plans to pursue a career that furthers the rights of animals globally and makes their welfare and conservation a more oft-discussed issue.

Christine Dumbleton

During her time at Eckerd, Christine was a student observer of the elephants at Busch Gardens Tampa and an intern at the Big Cat Rescue. Christine was also the lead researcher on a study investigating whether dogs can count. She presented her research at the International Conference on Comparative Cognition. After graduation, Christine moved back to her home state of Massachusetts. She is currently a full-time zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. There she trains giraffes and zebras!

Patrick Reed

During his time at Eckerd, Patrick was a student observer of elephants at Busch Gardens Tampa and a marine mammal intern at Gulf World Marine Park, Panama City Beach, FL. In his final year of college, Patrick interned at Discovery Cove in Orlando. He would commute between St. Petersburg and Orlando every week! His dedication paid off and he was ultimately hired as a marine mammal trainer at Discovery Cove. He then switched careers and earned his Master's in Counseling and Sports Psychology.

Hunter Ballak

While at Eckerd, Hunter majored in psychology and minored in biology. Since he was 3 years old, it has been his dream to be a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld. Prior to Eckerd, he was a camper with SeaWorld’s resident camps for 8 consecutive years learning everything he could about the marine mammal training industry. During his time at Eckerd, he interned at the South Florida Museum with Snooty the manatee. Hunter also served as the assistant director of Eckerd College Pet Life. Hunter is now fulfilling his childhood dream by working as a trainer at Discovery Cove Orlando!

Tia Hildebrandt

While at Eckerd, Tia double majored in Psychology and Anthropology and minored in Biology. Her senior thesis examined maternal behavior in orangutans. During her time at Eckerd, Tia interned with many primate facilities including: the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, the Primate Rescue Center in Wilmore, Kentucky, and the Omaha Zoo. She also spent time volunteering at the Vervet Monkey Foundation in Tzaneen, South Africa. She currently works at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo with various primate species. She aspires to one day become a primatologist and travel to Africa to rescue chimpanzees from unfortunate circumstances.

Joy Vincent

During her time at Eckerd, Joy majored in Psychology and minored in both Biology and Environmental Studies. She also kept busy as a Ford Scholar and a member of the Eckerd College Search and Rescue team. As ECCPL lab manager, Joy worked on several research projects at ZooTampa, and presented her research on Red River Hogs at the International Conference on Comparative Psychology. Joy also completed a senior thesis examining zoo education. Joy is currently pursuing her PhD in Comparative Psychology at Oakland University. Joy hopes to one day carry out research with elephants in Africa.

Hannah McCollam

Hannah, a psychology major, completed an impressive list of internships during her time at Eckerd. She volunteered with sea turtles at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Californian sea lions at Mystic Aquarium, and bottlenose dolphins at Dolphins Plus. She also served as the lead researcher on a conservation project at Florida Aquarium. All of her hard work paid off and she secured a job at SeaWorld San Antonio for after graduation! She is now working at Gulf World Marine Park. Hannah hopes to continue training marine mammals and exploring the field of comparative psychology.

Katie Keck

Katie, a Psychology and Animal Studies major found her passion for animal behavior by visiting facilities like Animal Kingdom and the Seas at Walt Disney World, the Atlantis resort, and local zoos and aquariums throughout her childhood. Among other things, Katie helped to lead up a research project at ZooTampa studying the efficacy of the facility's encounter programs and conservation pledges in producing conservation-based behaviors in guests. Upon graduation, Katie enrolled in a Master's program at St. Andrew's University in Scotland!

Katie Willgohs

Katie, a Psychology and Animal Studies major, served on the Eckerd College Comparative Psychology Lab as a lab manager and lead researcher. Katie became involved in the lab her freshman year as a First Year Research Associate. While at Eckerd, Katie was a part of Dr. Highfill's dog cognition lab and assisted with the Elephant Cooperation Strategy project in collaboration with Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park. Upon graduation, Katie accepted a position at Eckerd College as a stewardship coordinator.

Adrianna Pulido

While at Eckerd, Adrianna majored in Animal Studies and Psychology. She worked on the lab as an assistant researcher and was involved in the "Day in the Life" project as well as the dog cognition lab.