Sarah R. Benson-Amram, PhD 2011
My research interests lie in the domains of animal social behavior, cognition and acoustic communication. I am broadly interested in how vocal communication can provide clues about the cognitive abilities of gregarious mammals. I am recording the vocal repertoire of the spotted hyena ( Crocuta crocuta ) to determine the complexity of the spotted hyena acoustic communication system. By analyzing the structure of vocalizations emitted in various social contexts I will attempt to decipher their meaning. I am also using recorded vocalizations from known individuals to conduct a series of playback experiments. The playback experiments will allow me to inquire about the extent of social knowledge in adult spotted hyenas. I will also use playbacks to investigate social knowledge acquisition throughout ontogeny in spotted hyena cubs. Lastly, I will use playbacks to inquire whether there are sex differences in what hyenas know about their social worlds. In addition to the above experiments, I plan to use both playbacks and other experimental techniques to investigate non-social intelligence in both spotted and striped hyenas.
Sarah is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Zoology & Physiology at the University of Wyoming.
Her lab website is here: