Benjamin B. Beck is a comparative psychologist specializing in animal
cognition. Research on problem-solving and tool use by primates and birds led
to a book, Animal Tool Behavior, published in 1980. Turning his interest in
cognition to management and psychological welfare of zoo animals, he co-
authored a 1988 survey of zoo gorillas demonstrating the importance of mother
rearing and early social experience for adult sexual and maternal skills. Work
on cognitive aspects of husbandry led to study of adaptations to the wild by
reintroduced captive-born animals. Beck has coordinated the preparation,
reintroduction and post release monitoring of 141 golden lion tamarins in
Brazil since 1983. He also maintains an international database on
reintroduction programs for captive-born animals.
Beck studied at Union College (NY), received his M.A. from Boston University
and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He was Research Curator and
Curator of Primates at Brookfield Zoo from 1970 to 1982, where he was a
principal in the design and construction of "Tropic World," one of the first
large-scale mixed species tropical forest exhibits. He has also been at the
Smithsonian's National Zoological Park since 1983, serving currently as
Associate Director for Biological Programs. He designed the National Zoo's
innovative free-ranging golden lion tamarin exhibit, and was project executive
for "Think Tank," a pioneering exhibit on animal thinking that opened in 1995.
Beck is an author of 40 scientific papers and books and has given over 100
presentations at scientific conferences, colleges and universities. He serves
currently as Chair of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's
Reintroduction Advisory Group, Deputy Chair of the IUCN/SSC Reintroduction
Specialist Group, a member of the Management groups of the Gorilla and
Orangutan Species Survival Plans and the Great Ape Taxon Advisory Group, and
as a member of the Scientific Advisory Group of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
|See Benjamin Beck's answers to Ask the Scientists questions.|
Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
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