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Masters & Certificate Programs in Animal Behavior and Conservation

MA Program in Animal Behavior and Conservation (ABC, 36 credits)

The Master's program in Animal Behavior and Conservation (ABC) is designed to provide students with skills that will facilitate entry into and advancement in the fields of animal behavior, conservation, and animal welfare. The coursework focuses on developing an understanding of people and other animals by applying psychological, ecological and evolutionary principles that relate to social behavior, cognitive processes, learning, experience and ontogeny, cultural activity, communication, and the interdependence of physiological and psychological processes. Students in this program will have opportunities to develop skills in research methods (design, data collection and analysis; writing and presentation of research results) through projects conducted in laboratories, wildlife facilities and the field. Students completing the program will also receive formal recognition of their training in the form of a Certificate in the Advanced Psychology of Animal Behavior and Conservation registered with the New York State Education Department.

Students in the ABC Master's program complete the basic courses required of all MA students as well as a thesis and additional courses required for the Advanced Certificate in Animal Behavior and Conservation. The Certificate is a post-baccalaureate program registered with the State of New York. It is open to both certificate only students as well as masters level students.

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Students in the MA program in ABC are required to complete a minimum of 15 credits in ABC (see below) and a thesis - a 1 or 2 semester research project conducted in the field, zoo, aquarium or laboratory. Also required for the MA are:

  • PSYCH 701 or 739 or 747 – Experimental Psychology or Research Methods in Animal Behavior or Experimental Social Psychology (3 credits):Course designed to develop an understanding of the research process from formulating a testable hypothesis, to designing the study, to collecting and analyzing data, to publishing the results. Assumes a background in experimental methods at the undergraduate level and a graduate course in statistics.
  • PSYCH 702 - Proseminar in Psychology (3 credits): An introduction to various content areas within psychology.
  • PSYCH 705 - Statistical Methods in Psychology (3 credits): Covers descriptive and inferential statistics from t-tests to an introduction to multiple regression. Some assignments require use of statistical computer packages.
  • PSYCH 707.01 (707.02) – Thesis Research: One or two semesters (3-6 credits).
  • A course in applied or evaluative psychology (3 credits).
  • A course in social, developmental or cognitive psychology (3 credits).

Advanced Certificate in Animal Behavior and Conservation

The Certificate program is also open to post-baccalaureate students who by virtue of prior educational and practical experience in animal behavior and conservation, are qualified for the training offered by the program.


Students are required to complete the 15 credits in the ABC areas described below. Although a thesis is not required for non-degree students, the ability to conduct research in the ABC area must be demonstrated either through prior experience or completion of a research project while in the Certificate Program. Students who do not have an adequate background in statistics and/or research methodology will be required to take these courses in addition to those required for the Certificate. Required courses in Animal Behavior & Conservation are:

  • PSYCH 717 - Animal Behavior and Conservation in Captivity and the Wild (3 credits):A survey course covering the diverse nature of the field -- from issues involving companion animals, to the enrichment of lives of animals in captivity, to the conservation of endangered species.
  • PSYCH 751.03 - Basic Processes 1 (3 credits):Fundamental issues, concepts and research in the areas of perception, learning and comparative cognition.
  • Three additional ABC related courses (9 credits):These may be chosen from the following:
    • PSYCH 641 - Comparative Psychology
    • PSYCH 690 - Independent Research
    • PSYCH 716 - Animal Behavior I
    • PSYCH 717.51 - Field Studies in Animal Behavior and Conservation
    • PSYCH 718 - Animal Behavior II
    • PSYCH 730 - Psychology of Learning
    • PSYCH 750.xx - Special Topics (Special topics courses and independent research projects related to the concentration will depend upon student interests.) Recent special topics have included Human-Animal Interaction, Evolution of Animal Play and Companion Animals.
    • PSYCH 754 - Applied Animal Welfare & Behavior
    • PSYCH 757 - Animal Thinking & Communication
    • PSYCH 758 - Conservation Psychology/ Biology