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Meredith completed her Bachelors of Science in Biology and Religion at Duke University (North Carolina, USA) in 1997 and her doctorate in Animal Behaviour at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia, USA) in 2003. During her graduate work, she began studying how animals as diverse as lions, primates, and giraffe form and maintain social bonds with conspecifics, as well as how they react when these bonds are broken. She also became involved in behavioural husbandry, eventually heading the Zoo Atlanta enrichment committee and studying how adding enrichment targeted to allow each species to express natural behaviour could be used to improve welfare. Understanding social behaviour and improving animal welfare continue to drive her research program.
Meredith added endocrinology to her repertoire when she served as a Fellow in Behavioural Biology at the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES) within the San Diego Zoological Society (California, USA). There she studied the social bonds, reproduction, and endocrinology of two herds of captive giraffe for more than two years. She was the first to document social preferences among individual female giraffe in captivity, which have since been discovered to regulate herd structure in several populations of wild giraffe. Meredith was also part of a team of scientists that discovered faecal hormones could be used to non-invasively monitor the reproductive state of female giraffe and identified several ways that a female giraffe’s reproductive state modifies social behaviour and activity. In the last ten years, she has worked with both zoo and laboratory animals to integrate behaviour and hormone measures and gain a more complete understanding of an animal’s world.
Meredith currently holds a faculty position at Franklin & Marshall College (Pennsylvania, USA) and joined the Taronga Conservation Society Australia in July 2012 as a Research Biologist in Endocrinology. She is based in Dubbo at Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Wildlife Reproductive Centre. Here, she uses non-invasive hormone measurement to:
- Acquire basic knowledge about and optimize techniques to measure reproductive and stress hormone systems in exotic and Australian species,
- Monitor reproduction and assist with breeding management for animals in the Taronga collection and at other Australian zoos,
- Explore how hormone responses, animal behaviour, and the environment both shape and are shaped by each other, and
- Optimize welfare for zoo animals by investigating how animals perceive and respond their environments in captivity and the wild.