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Graduate Program in Biology

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Suzanne E. MacDonald

PhD (Alberta)
Associate Professor of Psychology and Biology

E-mail: suzmac@yorku.ca
Web: http://web.mac.com/suzannemacdonald

Research Areas: Ecology and Population Biology; Animal Behaviour, Comparative Cognition


Research in my laboratory is comparative in approach. We study a wide range of primate species (gorillas, orangutans, Old and New World monkeys, prosimians) in "naturalistic" environments, at the Toronto Zoo and other zoos across North America. We are also involved in several projects looking at reproductive behavior in endangered species, including cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, Vancouver Island marmots, and black-footed ferrets.

My research interests center on the cognitive mechanisms involved in foraging behaviour. A major focus of the work is on spatial memory -- how do animals remember where they have been? How do animals encode and use complex information about their environments? I am also interested in the types of strategies animals use while foraging, and am looking at social foraging in several primate species. Practical applications of this work include increasing the psychological well-being of captive zoo animals through behavioural enrichment and improved habitat design.


Gibeault, S., & MacDonald, S.E. (2000). Spatial memory and foraging competition in captive western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Primates, 147- 160.

MacDonald, S.E., & Agnes, M. (1999) Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) spatial memory and foraging strategies. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 113(2), 213-217.

MacDonald, S.E., Pang, J.C. & Gibeault, S. (1994). Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus jacchus) spatial memory in a foraging task: Win-shift vs.win -stay strategies. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 108, 328-335.