Sonoma State University Primate Ethology Research (SSUPER) Lab

Dr. Karin Enstam Jaffe, Director

What is the SSUPER Lab?

The SSUPER Lab focuses on ethological (i.e., behavioral) research of non-human primates and other mammals and strives to involve Sonoma State graduate and underdgraduate students in a variety of (primate) behavior (i.e., ethology) research projects. Currently, research projects being conducted in the SSUPER Lab are divided into two broad categories: the Applied Primate Ethology (A.P.E.) Research Program and independent research projects.

Affiliated Institutions: Safari West, The San Francisco Zoo, Oakland Zoo

What are the requirements for joining the SSUPER Lab?

1. You must be a matriculated SSU student with a 3.0 cumulative GPA

2. I must have a research project for you to work on

3. You must have your own vehicle and be willing and able to drive to and from an off-campus research site

4. You must be willing and able to dedicate 45 hours/semester for each unit of Anthropology 495 (excluding drive time)

5. I require a 1 semester commitment, but am interested in students who can commit to the lab for a year

6. I will work with students in any major, but all lab members must sign up for Anthropology 495 units. If you are not an Anthropology major, it is your responsibility to get your Anthropology 495 units to count toward your major by filling out a Major Minor Course Substitution Form with your academic advisor. If you are not an Anthropology major, and you want your research to fulfill a requirement for your major, you must get the project approved by your advisor before signing up for Anthropology 495 units with me.

Will I get academic credit for working with SSUPER?

Yes! Depending on the number of hours you want to work, you can get 1-3 units of research credit, in the form of Anthropology 495 (special studies) units if you are an undergraduate. If you are a graduate student, you will receive Anthropology 595 or Biology 595 units.

What are current SSUPER Lab projects?

Applied Primate Ethology (A.P.E. Research Program)

The Applied Primatology Research Program applies behavioral observation methodology to study captive primates (and other animals) in order to help local captive facilities scientifically answer questions and address problems they encounter with the animals they house.

2017-2018 A.P.E. projects

Effects of food distribution, visitor presence, and seasonality on the activity budget of Oakland Zoo sun bears
(January 2017-present)

Research Team:
Jessica Barber (PI, M.S. candidtate in Biology)
Yasmeen Ghavamian (Biology major)
Emily Humphrey (Biology major)

(photo ©

Independent Research Projects:

Independent Research Projects

Independent research projects are either conducted by Sonoma State students as the primary investigator, or include students as research assistants on larger projects overseen by Dr. Jaffe. Currently, there are no indepenent research projects in the lab.

Past SSUPER Lab projects

This is a partial list of projects previously conducted in the SSUPER Lab.

Effects of multi-stage enrichment on the behavior and engagement of chimpanzees at Oakland Zoo
(November 2015-May 2017)

Research Team:
Nicole Cornelius, Prmary Investigator (MS, Biology)
Catherine Henderson (Biology major)
William Volkov (Biology major)

(photo courtesy of Karin Jaffe)

Independent Research Projects:


Social network analysis of a captive group of hamandrays baboons (November 2015-May 2017)

Research Team:
Louisa Radoesvich, Primary Investigator (MS, Biology)
Whitney Clack (Biology major)
Kylie Gretler (Biology major)

(photo ©

Independent Research Projects:


Effects of environmental enrichment on the activity level and enclosure use of lemurs at the Oakland Zoo (November 2014-May 2016)

Research Team:
Penelope Wilson, Primary Investigar (MS, Biology)
Nichole Berry (BS, Biology)
Kaysie Lewis (BS, Biology)

(photo courtesy of Karin Jaffe)

Listen to our interview about the project on KRCB radio! (9/28/15)

Independent Research Projects:

Effects of behavioral enrichment on the core behavioral needs of mandrills at the San Francisco Zoo (August 2014-May 2016)

Research Team:
Kyle Runzel (BA, Anthropology)
Donny WIliams (BA, Psychology)

(photo © Marianne Hale via

Independent Research Projects:


Aggression, affiliation and enclosure use in an all-male group of squirrel monkeys at the San Francisco Zoo (June 2010-May 2015)

Research Team:
Dave Carroll (San Francisco Zoo keeper)
Marcia K. Brown (MA, Interdisciplinary Studies)
Natalie Hambalek (BS, Biology)

(photo courtesy of Marcia K. Brown)

Independent Research Projects: