Research in my laboratory focuses on mammalian behavioral development, its physiological substrates, the socio-ecological forces shaping it, and its evolution. My students and I are currently investigating how social, ecological, and endocrine variables interact during an individual's early development to influence its subsequent behavior, survival and reproductive success as an adult.
"35 years of on-the-ground research by Kay Holekamp" covered by National Geographic
Read the full story and see the amazing photos here: Love them or hate them, hyenas are getting the last laugh
Olivia Spagnuolo's latest publication, on individual identification of hyenas and aardwolves, is freely accessible for the next month!
Check it out here.
Zach Laubach's work linking early life experiences to patterns of gene expression later in life appears in Nature Communications
Read MSU's coverage here!
El País covers recent publication
Our Science paper of July 16 has been picked up by the Spanish press! Read here.
Study on social networks makes the cover of Science
Amiyaal Ilany, Erol Akcay and Professor Holekamp have a paper that made the cover of Science in the July 16, 2021 issue, about inheritance of entire social networks from one generation to the next. Dr Lily Johnson-Ulrich, who earned her PhD in the Holekamp lab, took the fabulous cover photo.
Paper on spotted hyena social inheritance covered by MSU College of Natural Science
"Co-authors Erol Akçay, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Amiyaal Ilany, senior lecturer at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, used sophisticated modeling techniques of social evolution to establish general theoretical principles for how social networks among hyenas are passed on." Read here.
MSU's College of Natural Science covers new paper on T. gondii infections in spotted hyena
Gering & Laubach find that a 'mind-bending' parasite may cause young spotted hyenas to approach dangerous lions. See their recent paper in Nature Communications.
Science Daily covers recent paper on link between fatal behavior in spotted hyena cubs and T. gondii infections
Recent publication in Nature Communications covered by Science Daily, exploring T. gondii infections impact on spotted hyena cub behavior.
New paper on the association between parasite Toxoplasma gondii and boldness in spotted hyenas
Published in Nature Communications, this study explores the association between T. gondii and host behavior in wild spotted hyenas.
Work on hyena mobbing cited in News from University of Texas, Austin
Computer scientists at UT Austin use artificial intelligence to simulate hyena mobs, referencing work by Dr. Holekamp and field observations by former research assistant Erin Person.
Ally Brown & Eli Strauss publish a study of hyena infanticide in the American Naturalist
Lab alum Dr. Eli Strauss and undergraduate student Ally Brown discuss work they presented at the Ecological Society of America's 2020 virtual conference.
Holekamp lab alumni monitor cheetah abundance
MSU's College of Natural Science covers the work Holekamp lab alumni are doing to monitor cheetah populations in the Mara.
New Strauss paper documents fitness effects of variation in patterns of social rank acquisition
Nebraska Today breaks down what this study tells us about juvenile rank, adult success, and the connection between them.
Lab alum Jennifer E. Smith continues her fantastic comparative work on leadership in animal societies
In Discover Magazine article "From Animals to Human Society: What We Learn When Women Lead," Smith discusses her work.
Lily Johnson-Ulrich and Dr. Holekamp publish new paper in Animal Behaviour
Graduate student Lily Johnson-Ulrich publishes findings on inhibitory control in the spotted hyena.
Dr. Julie Turner's new paper on hyena personality makes the cover of Ethology!
Congratulations to Julie Turner on her newest publication, available in Ethology and featured on the front cover!
Dr. Kay Holekamp's work recognized with prestigious award from the Animal Behavior Society
Congratulations to Dr. Holekamp, who has been named the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Animal Behaviorist Award in recognition of her decades of extensive research on the spotted hyena!
Dr. Zachary Laubach interviewed by Molecular Ecology Spotlight on recent publication
Molecular Ecology's Spotlight series features Dr. Laubach on his and colleagues' work on global DNA methylation in wild spotted hyena.
Dr. Kay Holekamp on "Animals to the MAX!"
Podcast host Corbin Maxey interviews Dr. Holekamp on her three decades of research in the Maasai Mara.
New publication on hyena behavior and the population trends of sympatric carnivores
Check out the newest publication by our lab and affiliates on the links between hyena behavior, human disturbance, and competing large carnivores in a themed issue by The Royal Society.
Eli Strauss publishes two awesome papers on hyena dominance, then defends his dissertation
Senior graduate student Eli D. Strauss published two recent papers on hyena dominance hierarchies. One paper appeared in the April 2019 issue of Journal of Animal Ecology, and the other appeared in the 30 April, 2019 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The latter paper made the issue cover, and is discussed in a commentary on hyena dynasties by Joan Silk. These papers represent two of Eli’s dissertation chapters. Congratulations to Eli!
Publication on mobbing behavior covered by Research@MSU
Study of spotted hyena mobbing behavior sheds light on social evolution and communication.
Work by Eli Strauss covered in NOVA PBS and MSUToday
Graduate student Eli Strauss demonstrates the role social relationships play in hierarchical flexibility - covered by both NOVA PBS and MSUToday.
MSUToday covers research by Matt Farr
Matt Farr teams up with Dr. Zipkin, Dr. Holekamp, Dr. Roloff and former lab member David Green to explore the complexities of carnivore management.
safariLIVE video features the Mara Hyena Project
Research assistants Jessica Gunson and Kate Steinfield interviewed by safariLIVE and featured in new Safari LIVE Story on the Mara Hyena Project.
The Hyena Scientist wins Best Middle-Grade Nonfiction
The Hyena Scientist, best-selling author Sy Montgomery's book on Dr. Kay Holekamp's Mara Hyena Project, has been awarded a Kirkus Best of 2018 review!
Multiple generations of hyena researchers
Stephanie Dloniak, lab alumnus and current chair of the IUCN Hyaena Specialist Group, visits with the amazing Hans Kruuk at his home in Scotland.
Washington Post article about Sy Montgomery's new book: The Hyena Scientist
Best-selling author Sy Montgomery has written a children's book about Kay and the Hyena Project! Check out the Washington Post's article about the book here, and you can find the book for purchase beginning May 15th here.
Julie Turner's work on hyena social networks on BBC Wildlife
PhD student Julie Turner was interviewed for BBC Wildlife, discussing her work on social networks and female dominance in spotted hyenas. You can read the article here!
Minute Earth creates animated videos on hyena biology
Former lab member Kate Yoshida works on the educational Youtube channel Minute Earth, which produced two great videos on hyena biology: "Why It Sucks To Be A Male Hyena" and "Why Do Female Hyenas Have Pseudo-Penises?!" You can check out these fun and informational videos at the above links.
Quartz features Hyena Project in an article about "animal Facebook"
The article discusses long-term field studies like our Kenyan field site and how valuable the massive amount of data collected from these projects can be. Check it out in Quartz's website!
Scientific American features Sarah Benson-Amram's puzzle box project
Scientific American published a great article talking about how Sarah's work studying hyena intelligence might challenge the social brain hypothesis, a common theory of animal intelligence. You can find the article here.
Dr. Holekamp receives Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award from MSU
Last week Dr. Holekamp became the first recipient of MSU's Graduate School Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. Her many years as an educator and mentor make this a very well-deserved award. Congratulations, Kay! You can read the Integrative Biology Department's announcement here.
Andy Flies publishes a new article on hyenas' impressive immune systems on The Conversation.
Andy summarizes his work on why hyenas so rarely die from disease, and discusses some of the factors that influence their immune systems. You can find the article here.
New mobbing paper led by Kenna Lehmann & Tracy Montgomery gets lots of press.
Our recent paper in Current Zoology on cooperative mobbing behavior by hyenas against lions has been picked up by a variety of media outlets including MSU Today, Daily Planet, The Discovery Channel, etc. You can see the MSU Today story here.
Smithsonian highlights Flies et al. (2016) study on rank-related variation in immune function in hyenas
A study by alumnus Andy Flies was featured in the Smithsonian Magazine. The piece discusses how higher-ranking hyenas have better immune function than their lower-ranking clanmates. You can find the article here.
Spotted hyenas featured in new book on mammalian reproduction
In their forthcoming book, Mammalian Reproduction: A Female Perspective, co-authors Virginia Hayssen and Teri Orr start every chapter with a vignette about spotted hyenas. The authors make clear that the unique physiology and fascinating mating patterns of the spotted hyena compel us to take a closer look at what we think we know about mammalian reproduction. See the story here.
Julia Greenberg's dissertation work featured on Mongabay
A portion of the dissertation work by senior grad student Julia Greenberg, one she presented recently at the annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, is currently featured on the Mongabay website here.
Forthcoming book on Mara Hyena Project for middle school kids
Author Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop are writing a book on Kay and the MSU Mara hyena project, to be called "The Hyena Scientist, " as part of their "Scientists in the Field" series. They recently spent several days at our Talek camp, watching hyenas with us, and interviewing project participants.
BBC Features the Hyena Project
BBC Earth has a very nice feature story about hyenas based on our project titled "The Truth about Hyenas" by Henry Nicholls. We like the "Tweetable facts" section that includes things like "Spotted hyenas are not scavengers, but hunt down at least 50% of their own food."
Kay's career featured in the Detroit Free Press
A really nice article about Kay and the history of her career was featured in the January 5th Detroit Free Press:
Pick your spots: Chance encounter leads MSU professor to career studying hyenas - By Ellen Creager
Dr. Kate Yoshida (formerly Kate Shaw) writing makes cover of
NYT Science section
Alumna Dr. Kate Yoshida (formerly Kate Shaw) has an article on the cover of the NYT Science section today titled A Symbol of the Range Returns Home
Congrats Kate!! She also currently writes for Ars Technica ( link to profile)
Learn all about hyenas from the IUCN Hyena family conservation website, sponsored and maintained by our lab.
Kay E. Holekamp
Department of Integrative Biology,
Program in Ecology, Evolution, Biology & Behavior (EEBB),
Michigan State University
B.A. Smith College, Northampton,MA
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, CA
203 Natural Science Building
288 Farm Lane
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1115
Office Phone: (517) 331-0024
Laboratory Phone: (517) 353-3771
Department Fax: (517) 432-278
Scientist at Work