Interspecies Conversations

Public Event

July 18, 2020

We are pleased to announce the Interspecies Conversations Public Event 2020 in collaboration with the Coller Foundation, Google and MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms. We would be delighted if you could join us and contribute to the ongoing conversation!

The day itself featured speakers such as ecologist Carl Safina, technologist and novelist Jonathan Ledgard and prominent author and speaker on animal behaviour, Temple Grandin, hosting a multidisciplinary group of researchers in the areas of animal cognition and communication, neuroscience, anthropology, AI and computer sciences, philosophers, artists and musicians. Contributors shared and debated research, thoughts and ideas about interspecies communication and approaches to deciphering the signals of other animals.

The event launched an exciting new research award, the Coller Prize for Interspecies Conversation and Hall of Fame to celebrate and champion pioneering past research.

Press Release


Introduction & Coller Prize

Interspecies Conversations

Deciphering - Finding the Rosetta Stone

Implications and Impacts - Interspecies Services

Temple Grandin & Closing Remarks

T. Mitchell Aide, Ph.D.
Rainforest Connection, University of Puerto Rico

Listening to nature, to protect it

The dramatic declines of bird populations in North America and insect populations in Europe, and the global decline and extinction of amphibians demonstrate the extent of the biodiversity crisis and our struggle to face this problem. To help address this crisis, the vision of Rainforest Connection is to create a global network of acoustic biodiversity monitoring stations, equivalent to the global network of weather stations. The hardware, software, and AI tools that are already in use, what is needed is to bring together the experts and funding that can integrate these tools/processes into a new and sustainable way of addressing one of the world’s most complex problems.

Dr. T. Mitchell Aide has been a professor at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras since 1992. He has trained 35 MS, PhD, and postdoctoral fellows, the majority from Latin America. His research interests cover a diversity of topics related to tropical forest ecology, including plant/animal interactions, forest dynamics, population dynamics, restoration ecology, land change, community ecology, and ecological informatics. Presently, his research focuses on understand how global demographic and economic changes are affecting land-use patterns and biodiversity. He recently joined Rainforest Connection as the Chief Science Officer.

Knut Egil Bøe
Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway

Horses use symbols to communicate their preferences

The talk shows how horses can learn to use symbols to communicate their preferences, and especially for wearing or not wearing a blanket at different weather conditions and temperatures.

Knut Egil Bøe is professor in ethology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. In his research he has been working especially with social and thermoregulatory behaviour and welfare of both cattle, swine, goats, sheep and horses. He has produced more than 120 articles published in international scientific journals.

Dr. Vinton G. Cerf
Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google

At Google, Vint Cerf contributes to global policy development and continued spread of the Internet. Widely known as one of the "Fathers of the Internet," Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. He has served in executive positions at the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, MCI, the Corporation for National Research Initiatives and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and on the faculty of Stanford University. Vint Cerf sits on US National Science Board and is a Visiting Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Cerf is a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and Swedish Academy of Engineering, Fellow of the IEEE, ACM, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, British Computer Society, Worshipful Companies of Information Technologists and Stationers and is a member of the National Academies of Engineering and Science. Cerf is a recipient of numerous awards and commendations in connection with his work on the Internet, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, US National Medal of Technology, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, the Prince of Asturias Award, the Japan Prize, the Charles Stark Draper award, the ACM Turing Award, the Legion d’Honneur and 29 honorary degrees.

Jeremy Coller
CIO and Chairman, Coller Capital

A pioneer of the private equity secondaries market, Jeremy is Chief Investment Officer and Executive Chairman of Coller Capital, the firm he founded in 1990. Establishing the Coller Foundation in 2002 to enable him to pursue his philanthropic goals, Jeremy is an advocate for impact-driven philanthropy, with the Foundation achieving this through both grant-making and in-house strategic initiatives. Jeremy has been awarded numerous accolades for both his professional and philanthropic achievements. He was voted one of the most influential people in private equity by Financial News, with the publication also naming him ‘Personality of the Decade’ in Europe in 2013, in recognition of his role industrialising the secondary market. In 2011, Jeremy was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the London Business School and in 2013, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Tel Aviv University.

Poppy Crum
Chief Scientist Dolby Laboratories/ Adjunct Professor Stanford University

Covert channels of communication

Poppy Crum is a neuroscientist and technologist. She is Chief Scientist at Dolby Laboratories and an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University. She has been acknowledged with many awards from the technology industry including: the consumer technology association for her work to bring forward over the counter hearing aid devices, the advanced imaging society for contributing development to the perceptual impact of high-dynamic-range imaging, billboard magazine for contributions in the music industry, and the audio industry for contributions to the perceptual understanding of hearing.

She is on a mission to build technologies that leverage human physiology to break out of one-size-fits all solutions to improve how the technology we surround ourselves in everyday paired with Machine learning and AI can better communicate with each of us and uniquely enhance our experiences and wellness with each other and our environments. Prior to joining Dolby, Poppy was Research Faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where she worked to understand the neural circuits that support communication in non-human primates and other species.

Francine L. Dolins, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Primates Navigating in Virtual Space: Studying bonobo, chimpanzee, orangutan and human spatial cognition in virtual reality

When humans and other great apes navigate in the real world, what spatial information do they pay attention to and use in wayfinding? How do they organize this spatial information to make efficient spatial decisions to find food, mates, avoid predators, and identify safe places to rest and sleep? And for humans as well as nonhuman apes, what landmark information is important in making spatial decisions at choice-points along a route?

Francine Dolins has her Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and Behavioral Primatology from the University of Stirling (Scotland), and a BSc (honors) in Biology/Behavioral Ecology from the University of Sussex (England). Her research interests span animal cognition, ecology, and the evolutionary foundations of behavior. A main focus of her research investigates spatial cognition and decision-making underlying navigational behavior in non-human and human primates.

Francine studies the behavioral ecology and cognitive processes of non-human primates under free-ranging conditions in the field and experimentally in the laboratory. Her most recent field research is on lemurs in Madagascar in addition to studies of New World monkeys in Costa Rica and Peru.

In her experimental research, Francine collaborates with scientists from Georgia State University, University of Oxford, The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and The University of Michigan-Dearborn. In addition, she works in collaboration with an international group of scientists dedicated to conservation through education from the University of Sussex (UK), University of Antanarivo (Madagascar) and Montclair State University. She has organized a number of workshops and conferences promoting conservation. Animal welfare and in particular providing better welfare for captive primates has been a long-running interest.

Francine is presently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at The University of Michigan-Dearborn in the Department of Behavioral Sciences. She teaches courses on Animal Behavior, Animal Intelligence and Experimental Psychology and supervises student research.

Michelle Fournet
Sound Science Research Collective and the Cornell Center for Conservation Bioacoustics

Conversations with whales: decoding humpback whale communication in Southeast Alaska

Most research on humpback whale communication has focused on song sung by males on their breeding grounds, but humpback whales do more than sing. Females and males of all ages produce a suite of "non-song calls" or "social sounds" throughout their migratory range. By going to Alaska and using an underwater playback speaker to broadcast sounds humpback whales, Michelle and her team are beginning to understand the function of these understudied sounds. Given that these calls - unlike song - are innate in humpback whales, understanding their function teaches us something about the foundations of humpback whale intelligence and their system of communication.

Michelle Fournet got her PhD in from Oregon State University in wildlife science and is a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. She is also the founder and director of the Sound Science Research Collective, an Alaska based non-profit dedicated to marine conservation research and scientific equity. As an acoustician, her work focuses on marine mammal communication in Arctic and Sub-Arctic Alaska, with a focus on humpback whale calling behavior on their foraging grounds.

Peter Gabriel
Musician and activist

Peter Gabriel is best known as a musician making albums, videos and film scores. In 1980 he brought a team together to create - the World of Music, Arts and Dance, to bring the culture of the world to the world; festivals presented in over 40 countries. In 1992, Peter co-founded, bringing video and new technology into Human Rights campaigning. In 1999, he co-founded, with Nelson Mandela and Richard Branson, bringing together a group of highly respected international elders to encourage global and ethical leadership as well as long-term thinking, peace-making and human rights. It was launched by Mandela in July 2007.

Alan Gershenfeld
Co-Founder, President: E-Line Media

Head, Heart and Hands; Video Games Explore Interspecies Communication

Video games are one of the most popular and powerful mediums on the planet. They empower players to step into roles, explore challenges, iterate based on feedback and level up towards goals they are invested in. Beyond Blue is a recently released video game, developed in partnership with BBC Blue Planet 2, OceanX and leading Ocean scientists that empower players to experience the awe and wonder of the Ocean including an opportunity to explore interspecies communication with sperm and humpback whales.

Alan Gershenfeld is Co-Founder/President of E-Line Media, a leading developer and publisher of social impact video games E-Line titles include the BAFTA award winning Never Alone, Gamestar Mechanic, Beyond Blue, The Endless Mission and MinecraftEdu. Alan has worked on impact game projects with the Gates Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, NSF, BBC, USAID, DARPA, White House OSTP, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Google, Sesame Workshop, OceanX, MIT Center for Bits and Atoms and ASU Center for Games and Impact. Prior to E-Line, Alan was Chairman of Games for Change and Head of Activision Studios. Alan has published articles on technology, media and social impact in Scientific American, Education Week, Huffington Post, Slate, Politico, Knowledge Quest and is co-author, with his two brothers, of Designing Reality: How to Survive and Thrive in the 3rd Digital Revolution. Alan is on the Board of FilmAid International, Advisory Boards for iCivics and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a Founding Industry Fellow at the ASU Center for Games and Impact and co-founder of Experimental Design.

Dr. Neil Gershenfeld
Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms

Prof. Neil Gershenfeld is the Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, where his unique laboratory is breaking down boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, from pioneering quantum computing to digital fabrication to the Internet of Things. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including New York's Museum of Modern Art and rural Indian villages, the White House and the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers and automobile safety systems, Las Vegas shows and Sami herds. He is the author of numerous technical publications, patents, and books including Designing Reality, Fab, When Things Start To Think, The Nature of Mathematical Modeling, and The Physics of Information Technology, and has been featured in media such as The New York Times, The Economist, NPR, CNN, and PBS. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, has been named one of Scientific American's 50 leaders in science and technology, as one of 40 Modern-Day Leonardos by the Museum of Science and Industry, one of Popular Mechanic's 25 Makers, has been selected as a CNN/Time/Fortune Principal Voice, and by Prospect/Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 public intellectuals. He's been called the intellectual father of the maker movement, founding a growing global network of over one thousand fab labs that provide widespread access to prototype tools for personal fabrication, directing the Fab Academy for distributed research and education in the principles and practices of digital fabrication, and chairing the Fab Foundation. Dr. Gershenfeld has a BA in Physics with High Honors from Swarthmore College, a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell University, honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College, Strathclyde University and the University of Antwerp, was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows, and a member of the research staff at Bell Labs.

Dr. Temple Grandin
Professor, Department of Animal Science, Colorado State University

Understanding Animal Behavior and Autism

To understand animals, you have to get away from language and enter a sensory based world. II will also discuss how the Jaak Panksepp basic emotional systems apply to animals.

Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and she has been a pioneer in improving the handling and welfare of farm animals.

She was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Temple’s achievements are remarkable because she was an autistic child. At age two she had no speech and all the signs of severe autism. Many hours of speech therapy, and intensive teaching enabled Temple to learn speech. As a teenager, life was hard with constant teasing. Mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt on her ranch in Arizona motivated Temple to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer.

Dr. Temple Grandin obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College in 1970. In 1974 she was employed as Livestock Editor for the Arizona Farmer Ranchman and also worked for Corral Industries on equipment design. In 1975 she earned her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State University for her work on the behavior of cattle in different squeeze chutes. Dr. Grandin was awarded her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989 and is currently a Professor at Colorado State University.

She has done extensive work on the design of handling facilities. Half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are handled in equipment she has designed for meat plants. Other professional activities include developing animal welfare guidelines for the meat industry and consulting with companies on animal welfare.

Following her Ph.D. research on the effect of environmental enrichment on the behavior of pigs, she has published several hundred industry publications, book chapters and technical papers on animal handling plus 73 refereed journal articles in addition to 12 books. She currently is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University where she continues her research while teaching courses on livestock handling and facility design. Her book, Animals in Translation was a New York Times best seller and her book Livestock Handling an Transport, now has a fourth edition which was published in 2014. Other popular books authored by Dr. Grandin are Thinking in Pictures, Emergence Labeled Autistic, Animals Make us Human, Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach,The Way I See It, and The Autistic Brain. She also has a popular TED Talk.

Dr. Grandin has received numerous awards including the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Livestock Conservation Institute, named a Distinguished Alumni at Franklin Pierce College and received an honorary doctorate from McGill University, University of Illinois, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duke University. She has also won prestigious industry awards including the Richard L. Knowlton Award from Meat Marketing and Technology Magazine and the Industry Advancement Award from the American Meat Institute and the Beef Top 40 industry leaders and the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In 2011, Temple was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. In 2015 she was given the Distinguished Service Award by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Meritorious Award from the OIE. HBO has premiered a movie about Temple’s early life and career with the livestock industry. The movie received seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. In 2016, Temple was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Grandin is a past member of the board of directors of the Autism Society of America. She lectures to parents and teachers throughout the U.S. on her experiences with autism. Articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, People, Time, National Public Radio, 20/20, The View, and the BBC. She was also honored in Time Magazines 2010 “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Dr. Grandin now resides in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Dr. Bernie Krause
Wild Sanctuary


This presentation underscores the significance of natural soundscapes as the defining voice of biodiversity. Since all organisms produce a sound signature, Dr Krause will introduce through both audio and complementary visual illustrations, the multiple ways in which the collective organic sound produced in a given habitat – its biophony – conveys a narrative of time, place, and fitness of habitats and speaks directly to issues of global heating.

Since 1968, Bernie Krause has traveled the world recording and archiving the sounds of creatures and environments large and small. Working at the research sites of Jane Goodall (Gombe, Tanzania), Biruté Galdikas (Camp Leakey, Borneo), and Dian Fossey (Karisoke, Rwanda), he identified the concepts of the Acoustic Niche Hypothesis (ANH), and biophony the collective and organized acoustic output as each species establishes unique frequency and/or temporal bandwidth within a given habitat. To round out the definitions of soundscape sources, Krause and a colleague added the terms, geophony (non-biological natural sounds), and anthropophony (human-generated acoustic signals). Krause is also a founder of the new ecological discipline, soundscape ecology. In the world of fine art, Krause has produced over 50 natural soundscape CDs and designed interactive, non-repetitive environmental sound sculptures for museums and other public spaces worldwide. As a professional studio musician, Krause filled the late Pete Seeger slot in The Weavers during their final year (1963). With his late music partner, Paul Beaver, he helped introduce the Moog synthesizer to pop music and film on the West Coast in the mid-1960s. Aside from their own charted recordings, the team’s work can be heard on over 250 albums, including those of Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and David Byrne, George Harrison, the Doors, and 135 feature films released since 1967, including Apocalypse Now, Performance, Rosemary’s Baby, Shipping News, and Castaway.

Krause, who holds a PhD in Creative Arts with an internship in Bioacoustics, was a key figure in implementing natural soundscapes as a resource for the U. S. National Park Service. His recent book, The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, was published by Little Brown/Hachette, March, 2012, and has been translated into eight languages. In July, 2014, the Cheltenham Music Festival premiered a new symphony by Richard Blackford and Krause featuring the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The Great Animal Orchestra: A Symphony for Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes, is based on Krause’s book and is the first live performance piece to incorporate natural soundscapes as a component of the orchestration. (CD available on Nimbus Records.) In the spring of 2015, Biophony, a music score composed entirely of natural sounds, was commissioned, choreographed and premiered by the Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, an internationally-renowned corps based in San Francisco. In 2015 & 2016, respectively, his current books, Voices of the Wild, followed by Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voice of the Natural World, were released by Yale University Press. His art and science exhibition, Le Grand Orchestre des Animaux, commissioned by Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris, opened 1 July 2016. The piece has since been exhibited at the Seoul Museum of Art in S. Korea, Shanghai, China, and opened MoMA’s (NY) Triennale in Milan, 1 March 2019. From October to December 2019, the work was featured at London’s 180 The Strand Gallery. His new book, The Healing Art of Listening: The Restorative Powers of Sound, LittleBrown/Hachette, will be published, June, 2021.

Krause lives with his wife and partner, Katherine, in Sonoma, California.

TED Global talk

Jonathan Ledgard
Technologist and novelist

Interspecies Services: an introduction & Interspecies Money for rare life forms

Jonathan Ledgard is seeking to define and build the first interspecies services, starting with interspecies money. He is a leading thinker on advanced technology, nature, and risk in emerging economies. Over two decades, he reported from 60 countries as an award-winning foreign and war correspondent for The Economist - including a decade in Africa. His reporting on the arrival of the mobile phone in Africa caused him to quit reporting and move into technology. As a director at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, he invented the cargo drone and droneport concept for the tropics. Separately, as J.M. Ledgard, he is a bestselling novelist. His first novel, Giraffe, concerning captivity, is a cult novel for animal rights activists. His second novel, Submergence, describing life in the deep ocean, was a New York Times Book of the Year. Increasingly, he works with major artists.

Tetsuro Matsuzawa
Distinguished Professor,Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study

Chimpanzee Ai and Ayumu: The Cognitive Tradeoff Hypothesis

A memory task called "masking task" has demonstrated an extraordinary memory capability in young chimpanzees. They are better than human adults. The common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees may have possessed an extraordinary memory capability. At certain point in evolution, because of the limitations on brain capacity, the human brain may have acquire new functions such as language in parallel with losing others such as visuo-spatial temporal storage ability.

Tetsuro Matsuzawa has been studying chimpanzees both in the laboratory and in the wild. The laboratory work is known as “Ai-project" in the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University since 1977: a female chimpanzee named Ai learned to use Arabic numerals to represent the number (Matsuzawa, 1985, NATURE). The field work has been carried out in Bossou-Nimba, Guinea, since 1986, focusing on the tool use in the wild. Matsuzawa tries to synthesize the field and the lab work to understand the mind of chimpanzees to know the evolutionary origins of human mind. He published the books such as “Primate origins of human cognition and behavior", “Cognitive development in chimpanzees", “The chimpanzees of Bossou and Nimba". He got several prizes including Jane Goodall Award in 2001, and The Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2004, The Person of Cultural Merit in 2013.

H. Lyn White Miles, Ph.D.
UC Foundation Professor of Anthropology & Director, Project Chantek University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA

Hybrid Interspecies Communication

Using anthropological and systems theory approaches chimpanzees Ally and Booee and orangutan Chantek showed they incorporated natural communications (facial expressions, gestures, body postures, vocalizations) with sign language communications. This occurred every 2 to 3 minutes, and included stand alone communications for redundancy, communications directly integrated into sign sequences giving them a linguistic structure, and novel use of signs or sign combinations. This suggests future communication with nonhumans will be hybrid in nature creating a whole third form of communication.

Dr. Miles was raised in California and Connecticut and completed her doctoral work in anthropology at Yale University and the University of Connecticut. Using systems theory and anthropological participant observation holistic methods, she studied the creation of meanings and conversational skills of chimpanzees and an orangutan Chantek. Chantek learned hundreds of words, invented signs of his own, included his natural communications in signed conversations, engaged in metacommunication, and even told lies. Dr. Miles has over 200 publications and papers, co-edited two books, The Mentality of Gorillas and Orangutans and Anthropomorphism, Anecdotes, and Animals, and authored a textbook Mysteries of the Human Journey, 2 ed. She is a professor at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson
President and Director of Research, The Gorilla Foundation

Koko’s Legacy: Bringing Interspecies Communication to the Public to Create Empathy for All of Nature

Project Koko has changed the way we think and feel about gorillas (and other great apes) through almost 50 years of interspecies communication discoveries with 3 gorillas: Koko, Michael & Ndume. This video-based talk aims to demonstrate how important — and practical — it is for us to continue “talking” with great apes, through sign language, art and other modalities. Why? Because interspecies communication: 1) is relatively easy and natural for gorillas, 2) is full of profound discoveries about the depth and complexity of their hearts and minds, 3) motivates us to learn more about their world and ours, and 4) provides us with a path to save them and other endangered species (including ours) by becoming a Voice for Nature. The Gorilla Foundation is developing interactive tools to facilitate the process and encourage public participation in the science and practical application of interspecies communication.

Dr. Patterson received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Stanford University where, as a graduate student in 1972, she began working with one year-old Koko, a western lowland gorilla, thus beginning Project Koko — the longest ongoing interspecies communication study ever undertaken (~50 yrs). In 1976, Dr. Patterson, Dr. Ronald Cohn, and the late Barbara F. Hiller established The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California to benefit gorillas living in captivity and those struggling to survive in Africa, and to continue the dialogue with great apes.

The author of more than 40 scientific publications and several books for the general public such as The Education of Koko with Eugene Linden, and the award-winning children’s books, Koko’s Kitten and Koko’s Story, Dr. Patterson has earned numerous awards and honors including National Geographic Society grants and the Rolex Award for Enterprise for her work with Koko and male gorillas Michael and Ndume.

Following Koko’s passing in 2018, Dr. Patterson's focus is to bring interspecies communication to the public, and engage the next generation of conservationists, through Kids4Koko, a new interactive educational program inspired by Koko’s Legacy. Kids4Koko will enable kids of all ages to discover and explore the benefits of interspecies communication and apply them to help save endangered species and to provide a Voice for Nature.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg
Research Associate, Harvard University

Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots

A brief discussion of Alex's accomplishments

Pepperberg (S.B, MIT, ’69; Ph.D., Harvard, ’76) is a Research Associate and lecturer at Harvard. She has been a visiting Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Arizona, a visiting Associate Professor at the MIT Media Lab and an adjunct Associate Professor at Brandeis University. She has received John Simon Guggenheim, Whitehall, Harry Frank Guggenheim, and Radcliffe Fellowships, was an alternate for the Cattell Award for Psychology, won the 2000 Selby Fellowship (Australian Academy of Sciences), the 2005 Frank Beach Award for best paper in comparative psychology, was nominated for the 2000 Weizmann, L'Oreal, and Grawemeyer Awards, the Animal Behavior Society’s 2001 Quest Award and 2015 Exemplar Award, and was renominated for the 2001 L'Oreal Award and the 2017 and 2018 Grawemeyer Award. She won the 2013 Clavius Award for research from St. Johns University. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation (US). Her book, The Alex Studies, describing over 20 years of peer-reviewed experiments on Grey parrots, was favorably reviewed in publications as diverse as the New York Times and Science. Her memoir, Alex & Me, a New York Times bestseller, won a Christopher Award. She has published over 100 scholarly articles in peer reviewed journals and as book chapters. She is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the American Ornithologists' Union, AAAS, the Midwestern Psychological Society, and the Eastern Psychological Association. She serves as consulting editor for four journals and as previous associate editor for The Journal of Comparative Psychology, and has recently been elected member-at-large for Division 3 of APA.

Lucia Pietroiusti
Curator, General Ecology, Serpentine Galleries London

The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish

Lucia Pietroiusti is Curator of General Ecology at Serpentine Galleries, London; as well as the curator of Sun & Sea (Marina) - the Lithuanian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale (and international tour). She will be a curator of the 2020-2021 Shanghai Biennale (Chief Curator: Andrés Jaque). Current projects include the recurring festival on consciousness across species, The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish (with Filipa Ramos) and the publication, More-than-Human (with Andrés Jaque and Marina Otero Verzier). At Serpentine, Pietroiusti founded and runs General Ecology, a strategic effort to embed environmental subjects and methods throughout the Galleries’ outputs and networks, as well as Back to Earth, gathering 65+ artist campaigns for the environment. The General Ecology Network, currently in development, convenes 100+ individuals and organisations across disciplines to prototype artist-led, environmentally driven systems change and bridge the knowledge/translation gap between culture, creativity and ecology.

Dr. Danielle Rappaport

The power of acoustics for validating species occurrence

Validating interspecies money with acoustics and AI: an accurate, transparent, and taxonomically inclusive way to track non-human life forms over time. This talk will highlight acoustic monitoring as an emergent cost-effective technology for automating species detection, with game-changing potential to enable routine biodiversity monitoring. Recent advances in acoustic sensors, solar-powered batteries, deep learning, and cloud computing have opened the way for unprecedented opportunities to monitor species trends in real-time and over the long-term.

Dr. Danielle Rappaport is a remote sensing scientist, forest ecologist, and entrepreneur who uses emerging technology and market-based thinking to scale solutions for monitoring and safeguarding forests. Previously, as a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow, Danielle pioneered novel approaches for characterizing long-term forest carbon and biodiversity change by fusing information from spaceborne, aircraft lidar, and acoustic sensors. Danielle led the first comprehensive assessment of carbon emissions factors following fire and logging in the Amazon—a critical missing piece in our ability to support accurate carbon accounting in the tropics. Her research has also advanced novel methods for monitoring biodiversity based on sound. Danielle's doctoral research received international recognition by the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation and NASA. Danielle holds a PhD in Geographical Sciences from the University of Maryland, a Master of Forestry degree from Yale University, and a BA in International Affairs from the George Washington University. She speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese. Danielle is founder of Conservation 4.0. Among her clients, she serves as Director of Science Innovation and Impact at Rainforest Connection, where she is helping to scale the first global acoustic biodiversity monitoring network.

Dr. Diana Reiss
Professor at Hunter College, cognitive psychologist and marine mammal scientist

Thinking Dolphin

What have we learned and what can we learn about the nature of intelligence and the communication of the highly social and highly encephalized dolphin by giving them choice and control over interactive technologies?

Dr. Diana Reiss is a cognitive psychologist, marine mammal scientist, and professor in the Department of Psychology at Hunter College and in the Comparative and Cognitive Psychology Doctoral program at The Graduate Center, of the City University of New York. She is the Director of the Animal Behavior and Conservation Graduate program in the Psychology Department of Hunter College. Her research focuses on dolphin cognition and communication, comparative animal cognition, and the evolution of intelligence. Dr. Reiss’s professional efforts have included the rescue and rehabilitation of stranded marine mammals, including the rescue operation of Humphrey, the Humpback whale that wandered into the Bay area in1985 and captured international attention. She served for many years as a member and science advisor on the AZA’s Animal Welfare Committee. She applies her research in advocating for global protection for dolphins and whales–in the past, in the dolphin-tuna net issue and currently, working to bring an end to the killing of dolphins in the notorious drive hunts in Japan. Dr. Reiss’s work has been published in in numerous international and national journals, featured in science magazines, television programs, and newspaper articles. In her book The Dolphin in the Mirror, released in 2011, she shares her personal and professional experiences with what she calls “magnificent minds in the water.”

Carl Safina
President, The Safina Cente, Inaugural Holder of the Endowed Chair for Nature and Humanity, Stony Brook University

Carl Safina’s lyrical non-fiction writing explores how humans are changing the living world, and what the changes mean for non-human beings and for us all. His work fuses scientific understanding, emotional connection, and a moral call to action. His writing has won a MacArthur “genius” prize; Pew, Guggenheim, and National Science Foundation Fellowships; book awards from Lannan, Orion, and the National Academies; and the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Rabb medals. He grew up raising pigeons, training hawks and owls, and spending as many days and nights in the woods and on the water as he could. Safina is now the first Endowed Professor for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University and is founding president of the not-for-profit Safina Center. He hosted the PBS series Saving the Ocean, which can be viewed free at . His writing appears in The New York Times, TIME, The Guardian, Audubon, Yale e360, and National Geographic, and on the Web at Huffington Post,, Medium, and elsewhere. His books include the classic, Song for the Blue Ocean. Carl is author of ten books including Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel. His most recent book is Becoming Wild; How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace. He lives on Long Island, New York, with his wife Patricia and their dogs and feathered friends.

Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh
Bonobo Hope International

Bonobo Language Project

The presentation features a 5 minute which illustrates the early research with young Kanzi, who was born in 1980. It depicts the kinds of tests Kanzi was able to pass without training and brief glimpses of his daily life in the forest. Kanzi and family represent the only apes to have acquired language without trial by trail training. The “figured out language” bu listening to it while traveling about the forest and engaging in dialogues about rear events, setting the stage for future studies of language in nonhumans.

Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh began her research with apes in 1970, as graduate student at the University of Oklahoma, where a colony of 30 apes with highly varied rearing backgrounds was maintained by Dr. William Lemmon. She worked with Lucy, a chimpanzee raised as their daughter by the Temerlin’s, as well as wild caught chimpanzees, chimpanzees from zoos and circuses and those reared by their mothers. She also worked with Dr. Fouts who was teaching ASL to the chimpanzees Booee, Bruno, Cindy and Thelma. After completing her dissertation she moved to Atlanta and began working with Dr. Rumbaugh who directed a computer based ape language system, designed to teach language to a chimpanzee, Lana (who had been mother-reared till she 11/2 years of age.) Dr. Savage- Rumbaugh expanded that work to the chimpanzees, Sherman and Austin who became the first nonhumas to communicate with one another, via symbols, drawing the attention of B. F. Skinner who attempted to prove that pigeons could be conditioned to do something similar, raising the question of whether nonhumans had the ability to be aware that were using symbols. After demonstrating that Sherman and Austin were aware and that they understood the processes of reference, representation and knew that language was used expression intentions, she began working with a different species, the bonobos. She also directed a major paradigm shift by designing an environment that allowed apes to roam freely in a 50 acre forest Georgia while remaining with their mothers as they acquired language. Both chimpanzees and bonobos made rapid progress in the new paradigm. This proved to pose a definitive challenge to those who viewed all animal behavior as innate or conditioned and eventually led (along with the other animal language studies) to the emergence of animal cognition. The project relocated to Iowa follow the birth of the 3rd generation bonobos to be immersed in a language project.The Iowa facility was provided to foster continued studies of the cross-generational effect of language and human culture on nonhumans. At that time it consisted of nine bonobos, who were a communicating as group, and became the only nonhuman animal language to study language in a group of adults. The project's international success subjected it to threats from both the zoological and biomedical communities. In 2013, the data, facility and bonobos were stolen in 2013, the bonobos were “contracted out” to independent entities. And their relevance as biomedical subject was strongly defended and their language use terminated. Legal efforts to allow the bonobos autonomy and to free them from contract research are underway.

Gautam Shah
Founder, Internet of Elephants

Wildlife as Daily Life

For a real shift to occur in the conservation landscape, we need to re-prioritize and re-think approaches to public engagement, and strive towards wildlife and nature conservation being at the top of everyone's daily agenda.

Gautam Shah, a National Geographic Fellow, is the founder of Internet of Elephants, a social enterprise that develops groundbreaking digital tools to engage people with wildlife. Through unique mobile games, augmented reality and data visualizations that use GPS and other data gathered about individual animals, Internet of Elephants tells the stories of individual animals studied by conversation organizations and individuals all over the world. In doing so, Internet of Elephants hopes to catalyze whole new approaches to engaging the public with wildlife.

Twitter: @ioelephants
Instagram: @ioelephants

Dr. Con Slobodchikoff
Founder and President of Zoolingua, Inc. & Professor of Biology Emeritus, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ

Decoding Prairie Dog Language

Using a Rosetta Stone technique of decoding languages, we have found that prairie dogs have a sophisticated communication system that satisfies the criteria that linguists say must be met to be considered language. Prairie dogs are able to convey information about the species of predator that is approaching their colony, are able to provide a description of the size, shape and color of the individual predator, and are able to communicate the predator’s speed of travel. These elements are comparable to nouns, adjectives, and verbs in human languages. They are also able to create new calls for objects that they have never seen before, just like we are able to create new words for novel objects. Much like human languages, prairie dogs also have dialects in their alarm calls. The prairie dog studies raise the possibility that animals can have languages that have parallels to human languages.

Dr. Con Slobodchikoff is an animal behaviorist and conservation biologist. He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, where he taught biology and animal behavior. While at NAU, his primary research emphasis was referential communication within animal communication systems, and also involved elucidating why animals have social behavior. In both arenas, the model species were Gunnison's prairie dogs, chosen because of their sophisticated communication and social systems. Con was also a Fulbright Fellow and, in 1983, a visiting professor at Kenyatta University in Kenya.

Con received both his B.S. and his Ph.D. in from the University of California, Berkeley.

Con is the founder and Director of the Animal Language Institute, a clearinghouse for research and forum for discussions about animal communication, including language.

He is also President and CEO of Animal Communications Ltd. This company has provided dog training classes and also consulting for pet behavior problems using scientific approaches.

Dr. Slobodchikoff is the author of Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals (St. Martin’s Press 2012) and lead author of Prairie Dogs: Communication and Community in an Animal Society (Harvard University Press 2009). He has also edited and co-edited three other books and published around 100 scholarly articles on various aspects of animal behavior, ecology, and evolution in such diverse publications as Behavioural Processes, Ecology, Behaviour, Journal of Arid Environments, Journal of Experimental Biology, Animal Behaviour, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Ethology, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, American Zoologist, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Journal of Mammalogy, and Intelligent Automation and Soft Computing.

Until 2010, Con’s scientific work involved studying the communication and social behavior of prairie dogs. Since that time he has been researching animal languages, with a specific emphasis on the language of dogs and of cats.

Dr. Slobodchikoff's work has been featured widely in the media. His video appearances have included Dateline NBC, ABC World News, CNN, Country Canada, Quantum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Teirzeit (Belgian-German TV), BBC, Turner Broadcasting, Brixen Productions (Discovery Channel), and Evolve (History Channel). His work was the subject of two one-hour documentaries, Talk of the Town (BBC 2009) and Prairie Dog Chatter (Animal Planet Wild Kingdom 2010). He has also been interviewed on various radio outlets, including The Diane Rehm Show, Radio Lab, NPR’s All Things Considered, NPR’s Morning Edition, and BBC radio. Stories about his work have appeared in the LA Times, Boston Globe, Denver Post, Washington Post, NY Times, and others, as well as numerous magazines including Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, People Magazine, and Discover Magazine.

David Sulzer, a.k.a. Dave Soldier
Professor of neuroscience and musician / composer, Departments Psychiatry, Neurology, Pharmacology, Columbia University

Can other animals play musical instruments? Zebra finches and the Thai Elephant Orchestra

A syntactically simple sentence fraught with semantic complexity: Can other animals play musical instruments? To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on what you mean by the words “can”, “other” “animals”, “play”, “musical” and “instruments”. We’ll listen to zebra finches spontaneously playing tiny ergonomic musical instruments up to hundreds of times a day, and the Thai Elephant Orchestra in Lampang, improvise as a band on giant ergonomic instruments.

David Sulzer is a neuroscientist and Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Neurology at Columbia University. His lab focuses on neuronal and synaptic mechanisms underlying learning and motor function, and related diseases including autism, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and addiction. Under the name Dave Soldier, he is a classical, pop, and jazz musician and composer, appearing on over 100 CDs and film scores. Among work that combines both identities are the Thai Elephant Orchestra, a 14 piece orchestra of elephants in Thailand with conservationist Richard Lair; the Brainwave Music Project with Brad Garton for which musicians to perform using their brain's electrical activity; pieces that use mathematics to create repertoire including the notorious "The People's Choice: The Most Unwanted Music"; and projects coaching children to compose and perform. His book on the physics and nervous system mechanisms that underlie music, “Music Math and Mind”, will be published this winter by Columbia University Press.

Ben Vickers
CTO, Serpentine Gallery

Future Art Ecosystems

Something uncanny is happening at the intersection of art and advanced technologies, new relationships are forming between artists, non-human entities and machines. BOB, Bats and Boar, this short talk presents an encounter with a triplet of these new and ancient beings.

Ben Vickers is a curator, writer, explorer, publisher, technologist and luddite. He is CTO at the Serpentine Galleries in London, co-founder of Ignota Books and an initiator of the open-source monastic order unMonastery.

Professor Y. Yovel
Head of the lab of NeuroEcology, School of Zoology and the Sagol School of Neuroscience - Tel-Aviv University

From Chaos to Information - Communication in a Crowd of Bats

Bats are extremely social mammals often roosting in colonies of thousands to millions of individuals. They can live up to dozens of years and form long-term bonds using social vocalizations to communicate with each other. In my talk, I will examine how much information their vocalizations contain and are they learned or innate?

Prof. Yossi Yovel is an associate Professor in the School of Zoology and in the School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University, and the head of the lab of NeuroEcology. He received a B.Sc. degree in Biology and another one in physics both from Tel Aviv University, an M.Sc. in Neuroscience from Tel-Aviv University and a Ph.D. in Biology and Machine Learning from the University of Tuebingen, Germany. He then completed two post-docs in the Weizmann Institute and in the University of Chicago before joining Tel-Aviv University Faculty in 2011.

Prof. Yovel has authored more than 40 journal papers and presented dozens of invited talks. His high impact papers in the past five years include six papers in Current Biology, two in PLoS Biology, two in Science Advances, one in PNAS, one in Nature Ecology and Evolution, one in Nature Reviews Neuroscience and two in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Among other awards, in 2012 he received the Alon scholarship awarded by the higher Council for Academic Studies in Israel and in 2016 he received the Krill prize for young scientists awarded by the Wolf foundation. In 2012 he was selected as one of Israel’s most influential people by the ‘The Marker’ Magazine. In the past 7 years he raised more than 23M NIS from different grant agencies including the prestigious European Research Committee (ERC) starter grant.

Yovel is also engaged in various public activities including chairing the Biology committee of the Ministry of Education. This committee is in charge of developing the high school curriculum in biology in Israel.

Prof. Yovel’s research combines biology with technology. His work on bats’ use of sound (bio-sonar) to map the environment and navigate through it has driven the development of a bat-like autonomous robot that navigates using sound only, as well as several other bio-mimetic applications in precision agriculture (two of which were recently patentized). His work on bats drove the development of miniature GPS sensors that allow tracking the smallest animals ever tracked before while recording their sound emission using miniature microphones. Yovel has recently started working on use of sound by visually impaired subjects for spatial orientation. In another recent study, the lab has shown that flowers can ‘hear’ their pollinators and respond to them (by increasing nectar sugar concentration).