Tuesday, May 4, 2021
  Community, Research

By News and Internal Communications

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – A partnership between UTRGV, Harlingen CISD and the Gladys Porter Zoo (GPZ) has yielded some informative animal behavior research that will be shared virtually with the community Wednesday, May 5, during the Animal Behavior Meets Social Science: A Research Symposium.

The virtual symposium’s goal is to educate the public about animal behavior research through engaging virtual presentations by Rio Grande Valley students, a panel of educators, and the Gladys Porter Zoo. The symposium will be held from 2-5:45 p.m.

Dr. Mario Gil, assistant professor in the UTRGV Department of Psychological Science, said the department and its undergraduate and graduate students have taken a leading role in organizing the virtual symposium. 

“One of our objectives is to inform the public about the importance of research in the day-to-day operations of the Gladys Porter Zoo,” said Gil. “The GPZ has a special place in the hearts of many people in the RGV, but people may not be aware that research and the scientific method provide a powerful tool for collecting data and gaining knowledge of the GPZ animals. This information can help the GPZ ensure the health and well-being of the animals.”

Gil said UTRGV faculty and students have been volunteering at the zoo for many years by helping the organization collect data and information about their animals.

Among the research that will be shared during the virtual event will include a project focusing on the parenting behavior of the GPZ gorillas by Patty Scanlan, a UTRGV graduate student, who is continuing the work of Dr. Wendy James-Aldridge, who has been conducting research at the zoo for more than 25 years. In addition, Harlingen CISD students will present their class projects that involved creating enrichment items for the zoo animals.

Also, UTRGV faculty members and Gladys Porter Zoo staff will participate in a special panel discussion on service-learning and experimental learning at the zoo.

“Our student presenters, undergraduate and graduate students will present the work they have been doing in collaboration with the GPZ. The students have been observing and collecting information regarding animal behavior about several animal species: gorillas, lemurs, giraffes, and opossums, just to name a few,” Gil said.

Dr. Patrick Burchfield, director of the Gladys Porter Zoo, will serve as the keynote speaker for the event and share important zoo information from the perspective of its leadership.

Event supporters include the UTRGV Department of Psychological Science, Gladys Porter Zoo, Harlingen CISD, UTRGV Engaged Scholarship and Learning, and the UTRGV Office of Community Engagement. 

For more information or to register for the virtual event, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/animal-behavior-meets-social-science-a-research-symposium-tickets-153034272629.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.