Behavior Science Blog

My webinar notes are written out and sketched on my ipad Pro using the notability app. I welcome feedback, questions, discussion, corrections. Some of these notes may be reworked into infographics in the future.

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Penguin Enrichment

Most of the notes I have posted here were created while watching webinars. These notes are different because the information comes from a science paper: Training Penguins to Interact With Enrichment Items for Lasting Effects. As I rarely read science papers, this was a tad challenging, but I was motivated enough to do this because I get to look at PENGUIN photos and videos on the internet.


This is a study done with penguins at Cincinnati zoo - where several penguins were trained to interact with "enrichment devices" (that weren't working so well at first). Then the amount of swimming and device-interactions they were doing before, during, and after the training, were recorded and analyzed. The paper is by Eduardo Fernandez, Rickey Kinley, and William Timberlake.



Rockhoppers look like the punk rockers of the penguin world!

*updated with colorful graphs




Questions that came up /stuff I wasn't clear on:

And answers by Eduardo Fernandez in blue

  • I have trouble understanding the definition of "baseline" in this study. There are three observation periods, and within each one, there are THREE baseline readings. So there are a total of NINE baseline readings over 37 sessions. Does "baseline" simply refer to the sessions where there were no silversides paired (respondently) with the devices?

Yes, Baseline = no fish pairings. No training.

  • In the BEFORE observation period, were the devices different ones? (not the red and blue ball?)

In the Before and After conditions, there are no devices present. We measured over these times to see what would happen before, during, and after the presentation of the devices.

  • I understand "Respondent Conditioning" but had to google "Autoshaping". Is classical conditioning always = autoshaping?

Autoshaping is always a respondent conditioning procedure. We used autoshaping for this procedure so that we could just throw fish at the device, rather than wait for each animal to get close to the device (it's way easier!)

  • I want to know if based on the results of this study, they ended up separating the Rockhoppers from the Magellanic Penguins, seeing that the Rockhoppers were hogging the pool (and enrichment devices)??

No penguin separation; this ended up being an enriching event used for years to follow, and it just ended up not being all that enriching for the magellanics. That's okay; Buddy and Maggie got lots of hugs otherwise (seriously!)

  • I tried to summarize this penguin study to my husband to check my own understanding of what I had read. His response was: Why didn't they just have live fish for the penguins to catch?

(a) spot on, and exactly what we did years later when we got an exhibit where we could do that (Fernandez, Myers, & Hawkes, 2021), and (b) this exhibit wasn't really set up for live fish, but we did try it with the little blue penguins in their outdoor exhibit without much luck. Live fish are kind of tricky.

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