From Special Collections/University Archives: Bucknell’s Animal Behavior Program

Have you ever gone towards Bucknell West, or the “Mods” and heard the screech of a monkey? Then you are both lucky and unlucky. As someone who lived in the Mods, the cry of a baboon and constant rattle of metal as the primates jump around their enclosure became a familiar wake-up call. However, if you have not yet heard or seen these beautiful animals, go check out them out, as they are a unique and extraordinary addition to Bucknell’s campus because of the Animal Behavior program the University offers. 

The idea of studying animals started with the Psychology Department and their push to study the behavioral sciences through experimental lab research. As a result, in the 1960s, a behavioral laboratory was created in the Coleman Hall. It was the first of its kind in the nation and known as one of the best. However, the rooms were soon outgrown and by 1964, the animals and program, which was still a part of the Psychology Department, were moved to its current location adjoining the Mods and Bucknell West. The Animal Behavior Program would move into the former “Steel Dormitory” which was constructed in 1947 as a men’s dormitory in Bucknell West, which was originally the “veteran’s village” or “Bucknell Village”. It housed G.I.s and their families. Later the steel dormitory was used to provide additional classrooms, and still later was used for storage. The steel dormitory’s conversion to the Animal Behavior Lab proved quite exceptional, and it was after this new facility was constructed that a major was created. 

In 1965, Wendell Smith, chair of the Psychology Department, suggested in a report about the “Further of Psychology at Bucknell” to create a separate animal behavior major of study. He reported that they had adequate faculty and an interest in the creation of a program. By 1968, this initiative became a reality, and the Animal Behavior Program was introduced. The program and its experimental lab research became so successful that new “exercise yards” were completed on the west side of the new lab quarters at the Mods that summer. The following year on April 23, 1969, after a trial year of success, the Curriculum Committee officially approved the establishment of an interdisciplinary major in Animal Behavior. It consisted of work with the departments of biology and psychology. The purpose of the major was to prepare students in the understanding of the physiological, morphological, and behavioral bases of animal life. The program was directed by an interdepartmental committee, consisting of those offering coursework in the areas above, as well as those, who by reason of special training, could contribute to the program in some other way.

Last year in 2018, the program celebrated its 50th anniversary, as well as years of success and valuable research. Today, the animal behavior program provides undergraduates the opportunity to examine the discipline of psycho-biology from a broad perspective that covers both the biological and psychological principles governing animal behavior. Students can earn a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree through the major. Additionally, the program combines appropriate coursework, laboratories, and research with field experience, and provides an understanding and appreciation of animal behavior. According to the Animal Behavior Program description found on Bucknell’s web pages, there are four groups of primates, social insect colonies, rats, mice, hamsters, and bats to engage with and study. If you wish to see or learn more about these amazing animals or the program in general, head to lab near the Mod’s or stop by the Special Collections/University Archives on Lower Level 1 of the Bertrand Library. 

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