Biography of Amy Utt

Photo of Amy Utt
Full Title: Assistant Professor of Biology
Building: Jorgensen Hall
Room Number: 303
Email: amutt [at] ucollege [dot] edu
Work Phone: 2361
Departments: Division of Science and Mathematics - 402.486.2515
Job Description:

 Current courses I teach:
- BIOL 106 (Human Biology)
- BIOL 111 & 112 (Anatomy & Physiology)
- BIOL 287 (Ornithology)
- CHEM 386 (Research Methods II)

 

Academic Background

- High School Diploma (1997). Modesto Adventist Academy

- B.S. in Biology (2001). Pacific Union College

- Ph.D. in Biology (2010). Loma Linda University

Studied the behavior of the critically endangered California Condor at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and various release sites (Ventana Wilderness, Pinacles National Monument, and Hopper Wildlife Refuge). Performed an in-depth analysis of the efficiency of the program since its beginning in the 1980s. Finally, prepared an extensive review on the role of captive-breeding in avian conservation.
Professional Background:

- Contract Professor for La Sierra University (2006)
           Human Biology

- Adjunct Faculty at San Bernardino Valley College (2008 - 2010)
            General Biology
            Human Biology
            Anatomy & Physiology

- Assistant Professor of Biology at Union College (2010-present)
            Human Biology (106)
            Anatomy & Physiology (111 & 112)

Publications:

Utt AC, Harvey NC, Hayes WK, Carter RL. 2008. The Effects of Rearing Method
            on Social Behaviors of Mentored, Captive-reared Juvenile California 
            Condors. Zoo Biology. 27: 1-18.

Abstract*

            Puppet-reared and parent-reared captive-bred California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) juveniles were studied prior to their release into the wild. Behavioral data were collected during social interactions within two cohorts of juveniles (N=11) and their adult mentors (N=5). The purposes of this study were to: 1) document to esocial behaviors of mentored juvenile California Condors and 2) compare social behaviors for two different rearing methods (puppet-versus parent-reared) during two phases of the mentoring process (San Diego Wild Animal Park versus release sites).
          Of the 17 behaviors examined by 2 x 2 analysis of variance (ANOVAs), two significant interactions between rearing method and rearing phase were found: pulls feathers and feeds along. For both behaviors, parent-reared condors engaged in these activities more often at the zoo and less often at the release pens than did the puppet-reared condors. The main effect of rearing was also significant for two behaviors: near others and received contact aggression, regardless of mentoring phase, then puppet-reared birds. The effect size for 16 of the 17 behaviors was greater for rearing method than for mentoring phase. Rearing method differences may persist long-term, as parent-reared adult mentors were significantly more aggressive than puppet-reared adult mentors.
            Dominance relations were examined for both cohorts, with the first cohort exhibiting a strong linear relationship (h'=0.86, P=0.018), whereas the second cohort exhibited a moderate but non-significant linear hierarchy (h'=0.63, P=0.21). Rearing method had no effect on dominance among the juveniles, but adults were probably dominant to juveniles (P=0.052; the difference was nearly significant). Although social behaviors between the two rearing groups were similar in most respects, this study is the first to document measurable differences between puppet- and parent-reared captive-bread California condor juveniles.

 

Utt, AC. 2010. Evaluating Captive-breeding Techniques and Reintroduction Success
            of the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). [dissertation] Loma
            Linda. Loma Linda University.

Abstract*

            In this dissertation, I present two original research studies on the behavior and survival of the critically endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). I also provide a comprehensive review of the role of captive-rearing to the conservation of birds. 
            The first study examined the behavioral differences of puppet- and parent-reared condor juveniles reared in captivity. This study further defined and examined the behaviors of adult conspecific mentors and their interactions with juveniles. dominance hierarchy analyses for two cohorts of juveniles and their adult mentors indicated the establishment of a linear hierarchy. Although puppet-reared juveniles engaged in fewer social behaviors in captivity, they successfully integrated into a social hierarchy. The second study examined potential predictors of behavioral problems and survival outcome of released captive-reared California Condors using binary logistic regression and chi-square analyses. Predictors incorporated in this study included age at release, sex, mentoring, rearing facility, release site, and established population size. Results up to two years post-release indicated that sex, adult conspecific mentoring, and established population size were significant predictors of survival, whereas rearing facility and rearing method were significant predictors of behavioral problems. These results indicate that mentoring may be especially crucial to survival of captive-reared California Condors released to the wild, and that many puppet-reared birds successfully adapt to life in the wild.
            The comprehensive review covered important methods used in avian captive-breeding and reintroduction programs. The strengths and weaknesses of various rearing methods are discussed, including the importance of raising birds in an atmosphere that most closely mimics their breeding preferences, developmental mode, and life-history traits. The need to understand a species before implementing a captive-breeding program is essential. Pre-release training is presented as a method to help prepare naive birds for release, with emphases given to mentoring, predator training, and obstruction avoidance. Comparisons between hard and soft releases and in situ and ex situ conservation are examined. By establishing guidelines for determining success, emphasizing the need to practice adaptive management, and implementing frequent independent reviews, avian conservation programs-including the California Condor recovery program-can become even more successful in the twenty-first century.

Manuscripts in preparation for publication:
            Predictors of Behavioral Problems and Survival Following Release of
            Captive-reared California Condors

            Evaluating Captive-breeding and Reintroduction Methods in Avian
            Conservation: A Review

* Reprints available upon request

 

Presentations:

2006            Western Field Ornithology Conference (Boulder, CO)

2008            Winter Wednesdays Lecture series (Loma Linda, CA)

2010            COS/AOU/SCO Joint Conference (San Diego, CA)

Honors/Recognition/Grants:

Research Grants     

  • Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society
  • Loma Linda University
  • Alphonse A. Burnand Medical and Educational Foundation

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