Jennifer Verdolin, Assistant Professor,
School of Natural Resources and Environment, UA
Monday, January 3, 2022,
an ASA Zoom Webinar*
What’s in a kiss when you’re a prairie dog? For two decades Dr. Jennifer Verdolin has explored this question along with other aspects of prairie dog behavior as she observes a community of Gunnison’s prairie dogs near Flagstaff. Prairie dogs kiss each other a lot, according to Dr. Verdolin, and their kisses follow observable patterns that help to enhance survival and cement social ties. “They greet each other with a kiss,” she says, “and individuals who kiss each other and don’t fight afterward belong to the same social group and territory. . . All you need to do is watch. The more times they’ve kissed, the stronger the connection.” Dr. Verdolin is committed to the preservation of prairie dog colonies, and her insights into prairie dog social life have impacted conservationists when they try to reintroduce colonies or relocate them.
Jennifer Verdolin is a passionate animal behavior scientist, author, speaker and conservationist. She holds a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from Stony Brook University. Her research focuses on social behavior, specifically social networks and their application to conservation. She’s active in in science communication and has authored two popular nonfiction science books, Wild Connections: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships; and Raised by Animals: The Surprising New Science of Animal Family Dynamics. An engaging and sought-after speaker, she has been a featured guest on BBC Earth Podcast, National Public Radio, and the radio shows of comedians DL Hughley and David Feldman. “I’m a scientist who loves talking about animals,” she says. “I use what we know about other animals to improve our lives, relationships, families, and careers.”
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