Dr. Lutz is the director of Behavioral Services at SNPRC and an active member of the National Primate Research Centers’ Behavioral Management Consortium. She has more than 25 years of experience in the study of non-human primate behavior.
The Behavioral Services program’s mission is threefold:
- Provide high quality of life to SNPRC non human primates through enrichment, training, socialization, behavioral intervention, and staff education
- Increase knowledge and understanding of the behavior of non-human primates
- Advance state-of-the-art behavioral management practices for the promotion of animal welfare
All animals are provided with Environmental Enrichment, which includes structural, manipulable, nutritional, occupational, sensory, and social enrichment. Enrichment devices or procedures are routinely assessed for effectiveness. A social partner is perhaps the most important form of enrichment because the partner provides constantly changing stimuli and challenges the social and cognitive functioning of the animal. Therefore, most of the non-human primates at SNPRC are housed in pairs or social groups.
Colony management. The Behavioral Services team provides a range of additional services for colony management and research. For example, Behavioral Services staff members train animals to cooperate for routine husbandry, research, and clinical procedures. They also work to form compatible pairs and social groups, and they conduct routine observations on many of the animals to assess their compatibility and well-being. If an animal has special needs, a behavioral intervention plan will be instituted.
Staff education is of great importance for optimal, state-of-the- art animal care, and Behavioral Services teaches eight classes that cover the topics of animal training, alopecia, primate behavior, and environmental enrichment. Behavioral Services personnel also consult with investigators whose projects may be affected by the behavioral abilities, needs, and limitations of study animals. They make recommendations for the selection of animals for any given project, collect relevant behavioral data, and design optimal procedures to minimize animal stress.
Dr. Lutz’s research interests broadly include the following areas:
- Environmental enrichment
- Behavior of non human primates
- Effects of captive housing on behavior
Behavior of non human primates. Dr. Lutz’s main research interest is the study of abnormal behavior in captive non human primates. Abnormal behavior may be an indicator of either past or present environmental deficits, and treatment methods are not always effective. Because behavioral problems can negatively impact both research and animal welfare, the focus of her work is to examine the extent of abnormal behavior in captive non-human primate populations and identify risk factors with an aim towards prevention. Common risk factors have been identified, and include nursery rearing, single housing, and sedation events. This information is utilized to direct and improve animal management practices.
Alopecia (hair loss). Alopecia is a common occurrence in primate populations, and hair loss can range from small focal areas to large portions of the body. Various conditions are associated with hair loss in non-human primates. These may include pregnancy, stress, aging, behavior (e.g., pulling hair from self or others), disease, housing condition, social rank, and seasonal molting. Although the true impact of hair loss on animal welfare is unknown, it may serve as indicator of underlying conditions that affect an animal’s wellbeing. Dr. Lutz is currently investigating alopecia in a cross-facility collaboration to identify the extent of hair loss in primate populations and to identify risk factors with an aim to better understand its impact on animal welfare.
Physiological measures of stress. Dr. Lutz utilizes measures of cortisol as an indicator of stress. She developed a method of collecting saliva samples from awake, unrestrained rhesus monkeys and utilized this technique to assess the relationship between salivary cortisol and self-injurious behavior. Dr. Lutz currently utilizes cortisol obtained from hair samples as a measure of chronic stress to assess its association with abnormal behavior, alopecia, and environmental conditions.