International animal behavior conference at UW-Milwaukee Aug. 3-6

Do black widow spiders form mental models of their webs? Do octopuses recognize their reflection in a mirror? Is there a link between the gut microbiome in honeybees and their memory?

More than 600 scientists from a range of disciplines will gather at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to discuss these and a host of other topics, from communication strategies to mating preferences, at the annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society Aug. 3-6.

The public can attend an outreach fair on Thursday, Aug. 2, at Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park, 1500 E. Park Place. At this event, labs from across the country bring hands-on activities to engage the public in animal behavior and to answer age-old questions like, “Does my dog think I’m smart?” and “Why do birds wake me up so early?”

The Animal Behavior Society is composed of a diverse group of scientists who study wild, lab and zoo animals – and even pets, said Peter Dunn, a UWM distinguished professor of biological sciences and a conference organizer.

Topics of the plenary talks include communication in chimpanzees (Katie Slocombe, University of York), the evolution of amazing colors and displays in spiders (Damian Elias, University of California, Berkeley), and adaptation in the famous Galapagos finches (Jeff Podos, University of Massachusetts-Amherst).

“Animal behavior is an integrative science that tackles some of the most difficult questions in life because they reflect multiple levels of causation,” said Dunn. “Animal behaviorists are also tackling applied questions in animal welfare and the application of behavioral methods for wildlife conservation.”

UWM faculty members Linda Whittingham, Gerlinde Höbel and Rafael Rodríguez also are organizers and participants. The program is online at

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