About the author, Jay M. Cooney

The author at Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland, immersed in the spectacle of a gannet colony.

I am currently an undergraduate student at Canisius College where I am pursuing a major in Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation (ABEC) with a minor in Anthrozoology. My passion since childhood has been gaining and communicating knowledge about nonhuman animals, and I have since become devoted to gaining a background in the formal examination of their behavior and ecology. My experiences with nonhuman animals have challenged and altered my perspective on the various nuanced interactions between humans and other animals, as well as the most ethical manner in which to relate to them. I hope that my writing can both educate readers regarding the breadth of our planet’s biodiversity, and inspire them to live consciously in accord with the conservation and well-being of our nonhuman animal kin.

Research on nonhuman animals compels me with its potential to reveal humbling knowledge about the inner lives and unique worlds experienced by other species. I also find fulfillment in the process of making connections between multiple levels of explanation to form novel research questions, and brainstorming creative methods to design and implement studies. So far, I have been an assistant with the Canisius Marineland Odontocete Research Project, through which I have recorded data on captive beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) behavior under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Noonan. I have collected and managed data on rates of inter-whale aggression following merges of separate pools, responses to aversive and potentially enriching visitor behavior, and consistent individual swim patterns indicative of behavioral syndromes, and subsequently presented academic posters on these two topics. I am currently completing an internship with the Purple Martin Conservation Association through which I am gaining hands-on experience in the conservation of the purple martin (Progne subis), a swallow species entirely dependent on human-suppled housing. I have assisted with monitoring nest development, recording banding data, and managing nonnative bird species that compete with purple martins for nesting. Through this I have contributed to long term data sets informing conservationists on the status of this critical aerial insectivore, and taken part in a truly positive manifestation of the human-animal relationship.

I have been blessed to travel across North America to observe wildlife and various aspects of human-wildlife interactions. In February of 2018, I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of a Canisius Ambassadors for Conservation (CAC) team who produced an educational film on the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and the challenges facing their potential restoration to Rocky Mountain National Park. We spoke with and interviewed biologists, hunters, ecotourism guides, and other stakeholders in an effort to grasp the scope of this conservation issue as experienced by communities on the ground. Following this trip, I presented on these topics and the general issue of humankind’s ability to coexist with large carnivores to high school students. I traveled in Spring of 2017 as part of a CAC team to observe terrestrial and marine fauna along the Salish Sea while evaluating the impact of local ecotourism practices and producing conservation-focused social media posts. I also traveled along the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland in May of 2018, studying readings on seabird behavior and life history to apply this knowledge to interpret field observations.

My future goals are to enter Academia with a focus on questions related to Conservation Behavior, at the interface between behavioral ecology and conservation biology. I hold a particular interest in how human activities alter the behavior and ecology of deer species through indirect or nonlethal pathways, and how the proximate changes and evolutionary trajectories shaped by such impacts will affect management of these species. Particular questions of great interest to me include how the social mileu and spatiotemporal activity patterns of deer are altered during hunting seasons, and how habitat selection by ecologically-sensitive deer species is influenced by industrial activities like logging and energy development. I hope to communicate findings that hold practical value for application in decision-making in conservation strategies, such as assisting efforts to mitigate the dangers imposed on wildlife and humans alike by deer-vehicle collisions. I also have an interest in the rising field of evolutionary psychology, and its potential for shedding light on the evolution of humankind’s short-sighted aspirations for dominion. I have long aspired to teach and conduct research as a college professor, and also hope to engage in science communication to the public through authorship of popular articles and books.

In addition to my personal online writing over the past five years, I am currently one of the writing interns for Bear Trust International, authoring pieces that apply an anthrozoological lens to bear conservation to improve our interspecies interactions. I am also employed in the Education Department at the Erie Zoo, where I led classes for youth programs and received formal training in small mammal handling.

My inspiration derives from the many luminary scientists whose insight has enriched my existence, such as Edward O. Wilson, Frans de Waal, Jared Diamond, Valerius Geist. I also owe ample gratitude to the wonderful ABEC staff at Canisius College, whose studies of the animal kingdom I wish to echo in my career.

About “Animal in The Mirror”

A persistent point of my curiosity has been our species’ recurring denial of its animal nature, and the growing movement to reconcile it to improve our self-understanding and extend the reach of our morality to other species. Despite the notions of the human ego, we too are a species of animal dependent on the biosphere and the delicate tapestry of life that it hosts. Our evolutionary heritage connects us to all inhabitants of the natural world, from the largest blue whales to the tiniest insects. Thus, the title of “Animal in the Mirror:” encouraging readers to contemplate this profound relationship with biodiversity, and express celebration of our kinship through positive interactions with the nonhuman animals they encounter and the wild places they enter into. For the past five years, I have been the author of a blog titled “Bizarre Zoology” which has received over 450,000 views. Animal in the Mirror will continue to host my musings relating to animal behavior, ecology, and conservation, as well as the spectrum of biophilia embodied for better or worse through human actions.

The author presenting an academic poster at the Rochester Academy of Science 44th Annual Fall Scientific Paper Session

Works Referenced in:

Naish, Darren. Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths. London: Arcturus, 2016. Kindle.

Shuker, Karl, and Roy Mackal. Still in Search of Prehistoric Survivors. Landisville: Coachwhip Publications, 2016. Print.

The author aboard a ferry crossing a portion of the Strait of Juan De Fuca, vigilant for signs of the Salish Sea’s rich marine biodiversity.