Wednesday, November 8, 4:30 – 5:30 pm
Chesapeake Ballroom

Speaker: Diana Reiss, Professor in the Department of Psychology at Hunter College and the Animal Behavior and Comparative Psychology Doctoral program at The Graduate Center, CUNY

Chair: Clara D. Martin, Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL)

Reflecting on Dolphin Communication & Cognition

Dr. Diana Reiss is a cognitive psychologist, a marine mammal scientist, and a professor in the Department of Psychology at Hunter College and the Animal Behavior and Comparative Psychology Doctoral program at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research focuses on dolphin cognition and communication, comparative animal cognition, and the evolution of intelligence. She received her PhD from Temple University in Speech and Communication Science and during her doctoral studies she did additional graduate training at the Laboratoire de Physiologie Acoutique, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Centre National de la Recherche, CNRZ, Jouy-en-Josas, France.

Dr. Reiss and her colleagues demonstrated that bottlenose dolphins (and later, Asian elephants) possess the rare ability for mirror self-recognition, previously considered unique to humans and great apes. To investigate dolphin vocal learning and other aspects of cognition, Dr. Reiss pioneered the use of an interactive underwater keyboard system with dolphins that provided them with choice and control over aspects of their environment. The dolphins demonstrated unexpected levels of self-organized learning. Currently, Dr. Reiss is collaborating with Dr. Marcelo Magnasco, a biophysicist at Rockefeller University, in a multidisciplinary collaborative research effort to decipher dolphin vocal communication using experimental and observational approaches. The team has recently designed and implemented the use of a large interactive touchscreen for the dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore to provide them with choice and control in obtaining activities and objects. The dolphins’ vocalizations and behavior will be visually and acoustically tracked. The research team is also using UAS (drones) to observe and record the behavior and vocalizations of wild dolphins in Belize.

Dr. Reiss’s professional efforts also include the rescue and rehabilitation of stranded marine mammals, including the rescue operation of Humphrey, the Humpback whale that wandered into the Bay area in 1985 and captured international attention. She applies her research in advocating for global protection for dolphins and whales and she has been a leader in the efforts to bring an end to the killing of dolphins in the drive hunts in Japan that were exposed in the Oscar winning film The Cove. She is currently working with the National Aquarium to build the first dolphin sanctuary for the animals in their care.

Dr. Reiss’s work has been featured in hundreds of articles in international and national journals, science magazines, television segments and features, and newspaper articles. In her book The Dolphin in the Mirror, released in 2011, she shares her personal and professional experiences with what she calls “magnificent minds in the water.”