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, 2024. Applications must be submitted to Dr. Heather Hill no later than February 28, 2023. Download the application here.

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.

This Year's Award Recipients

Sasha Winkler

Sasha is a doctoral candidate in Biological Anthropology at UCLA and a visiting graduate scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on animal play and laughter to inform evolutionary theories about communication, learning, social bonding, and emotion. She uses a variety of methods including behavioral observation, cognitive experiments, thermal imaging, and eye tracking. She currently works with dogs and bonobos.

Hannah Burrows

Hannah is a masters student at Queen’s University in the Psychology-Cognitive Neuroscience program where she also received her undergraduate Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Her research investigates the reciprocal nature of dog-human relationships, including how human perceptions of their dog's temperament affect these relationships. Through a combination of behavioural measures and State Space Grid analysis of dog-human dyads, her research examines the complex interplay between dogs and their human counterparts in achieving common objectives. In turn, this research has applicability for the training of working and service dogs and their handlers.