Stan Kuczaj Fund

Remembering Stan

On 14 April 2016, the scientific community lost Dr. Stan Kuczaj. For the past 20 years, Stan directed the Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Lab at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he inspired students and conducted novel dolphin cognition research. He was a beloved teacher, researcher, and long-time friend of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, and worked as a research consultant for the Foundation in its early years.
With a legacy of more than 50 master’s- and doctoral-level students working in a variety of fields, Stan studied bottlenose dolphins and sea lions in managed-care facilities, wild dolphins in the Mississippi Sound, wild rough-toothed dolphins off of Utila, Honduras, sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico and many other species of animals, such as Asian elephants. He conducted cognitive and behavioral studies with marine mammals involving calf development, the development of play, social interactions among different-aged animals, the intricacies of environmental enrichment, the establishment and differences in personality, the importance of contact during social interactions, and the role of emotion in animal behavior. His work in acoustics explored the development of echolocation in dolphin calves, the characteristics of sperm whale codas, the role of individual whistles in mother-calf reunions, and the use of sounds during cooperative tasks.
Stan believed in pursuing challenging topics in human and animal cognition with rigor, candor, and the spirit of intellectual adventure. Stan was a notable figure in the marine mammal community with a passion and love for his work. He will be truly missed. In honor of Stan’s memory, the Kuczaj Memorial Fund supports students and researchers who wish to examine questions involving animal cognition, behavior, and development.

The Kuczaj Memorial Travel Grant

The Kuczaj Memorial Fund supports the Kuczaj Memorial Travel Grant. The grant is administered in memory of Dr. Stan Kuczaj, who was a leader in the study of comparative animal cognition, particularly within marine mammals. Stan believed in pursuing challenging topics in human and animal cognition with rigor, candor, and the spirit of intellectual adventure. The Kuczaj Memorial Travel Grant is administered with the goal of preserving and promoting Stan’s interests and beliefs in scientific pursuit.

Applicant requirements

Grants are for $500 in travel allowances to be applied toward conference fees, food and lodging, or travel expenses.

Grant applications are now being accepted. Two grants will be awarded and grantees will be selected and notified of the award by March 15, 2023. Applications must be submitted to Dr. Heather Hill no later than February 28, 2023. Download the application here.

This Year's Award Recipients

Rachel Hamrock

Rachel, from Spring, Texas, graduated with Bachelor of Science degrees in Marine Biology and Marine Fisheries from Texas A&M University at Galveston. Rachel is currently a doctoral student in the Integrative Biology program at Oklahoma State University. Her primary research is on kin and species recognition in cetaceans through the utilization of signature whistles.

Applicants for the Kuczaj Memorial Travel Grant must:

  1. Be enrolled in a graduate program at the time of the application.
  2. Have their abstract accepted for presentation at the Conference on Comparative Cognition.
  3. Submit their abstract for evaluation and ranking.
  4. Provide evidence of graduate enrollment. The Kuczaj Memorial Travel Grant is determined through a competitive ranking process based upon the quality of the abstracts submitted.

Jordyn Truax

Jordyn is a PhD candidate in the experimental psychology program at Oakland University with an emphasis in comparative cognition. She conducts research in the Laboratory of Cognitive Origins under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Vonk. Her primary research is on social cognition, with a focus on cooperation and altruism, as well as captive animal welfare.

Victoria "Tori" O'Connor

Tori, from Florham Park, New Jersey, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in BFB: Animal Behavior from Franklin and Marshall College and a Master of Arts in Animal Behavior and Conservation from CUNY: Hunter College. Tori is currently a doctoral candidate in the Psychology department at Oakland University. Her primary research is on comparative cognition in captive carnivores, specifically innovation, behavioral flexibility, and the effects of rearing in felids.