Fido, What Are You Thinking?

Image: Oregan Zoo courtesy of NYSCI

Animals are a part of our daily lives. Whether you wake up to see your dog holding his leash in his mouth, hear birds chirping outside your window, or have a squirrel steal a bite of your food when you’re not looking, you share your space with animals. But do animals think, or are they governed only by instinct? 

A new exhibition exploring this question is currently being developed by a team of experts headed by NYSCI’s science interpretation consultant, Martin Weiss. Dr. Weiss helped create the NYSCI traveling exhibitions Charlie and Kiwi’s Evolutionary Adventure and Molecules & Health … The Shape of Science. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the new animal cognition exhibition, titled Wild Minds – What Animals Really Think, will premiere at NYSCI and the Staten Island Zoo in October. It will then tour the country with stops planned in Oregon, California, Indiana and Ohio.

Creating Wild Minds has been a large undertaking, involving many people and institutions. The project’s development team includes Diana Reiss from Hunter College’s Department of Psychology, who is best known for her work on mirror self-recognition among dolphins and elephants; and John Fraser, a conservation psychologist and educator currently serving as Director of the Institute for Learning Innovation’s New York office. Partner institutions include the Staten Island Zoo, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Oregon Zoo, the California Science Center, Santa Barbara Zoo, Science Central, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, COSI (Center of Science and Industry), and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Programming planned for Wild Minds will include NYSCI-style hands-on, do-it-yourself activities that you can try with animals in and around your home. What do you think your pet will think of that?