Laela Sayigh

Associate Professor of Animal Behavior
Laela Sayigh
Contact Laela

Mail Code CS
Laela Sayigh
Adele Simmons Hall 202
413.559.5510

Laela Sayigh, associate professor of animal behavior, received her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (MIT/WHOI) Joint Program, and her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Her research focuses on social behavior and communication of cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Her current projects focus on a wide range of species, including blue whales, fin whales, pilot whales, and bottlenose dolphins, and are both applied (e.g., looking at effects of anthropogenic noise on communication) and basic (e.g., looking at call structure and function). Given the challenges of studying species that spend most of their lives underwater, she is involved in research that utilizes new technologies, such as non-invasive tags, to study cetacean communication systems.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • The traditional view of intelligence ranging from low to high, with humans at the top, has been challenged by research on diverse aspects of animal cognition. Recent studies suggest that cognition takes many different forms in animals and can be very difficult to compare to humans. We will talk about a wide range of animals - including octopuses, crows, dogs, monkeys, apes, dolphins, and whales - from the joint perspectives of cognitive science, animal behavior, and evolutionary biology. We will focus on capacities that have been considered hallmarks of intelligence, such as tool use, mirror self-recognition, innovation, culture, and of course, language. Rather than assessing how human-like these abilities are, we will view these studies with an eye to how each species' intelligence is adapted to its own unique needs. Students will read from the professional scientific literature, and carry out hands-on research projects with animals at the Hampshire Farm. Key Words: behavioral ecology, animal learning, animal consciousness, hands on experiments, farm animals