Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Donald Sacco

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Evan Dart

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 4

Lance Miller


Environmental enrichment is a key component to improving the psychological and physiological well being of animals in human care. Enrichment can be achieved through a variety of modalities, including the addition of objects and scents, or by providing the animals with additional challenges. The effectiveness of specific enrichment should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if the desired result is achieved. Environmental enrichment devices (EED’s) can be utilized to present novel problems to animals in human care. When confronted with a novel problem, dolphins can plan their behavior to create a more efficient strategy then previously modeled.

The purpose of the present study was to investigate dolphins’ ability to plan their behaviors using an interactive apparatus and accompanying weights, and examine the enrichment value of the interactive apparatus. Two problems were presented to evaluate dolphins’ ability to plan by collecting several weights at once, thus solving the apparatus more efficiently. In contrast to previous findings, dolphins in the present study failed to plan their behavior. Rather, individual differences in strategy and level of interaction with the apparatus arose throughout the experiment and are discussed here. The results indicate that the apparatus was engaging for some animals, evidenced by their continued interaction throughout the study, with or without reward. One dolphin continually solved the apparatus despite rarely consuming the food reward, suggesting that she was motivated to participate for the challenge itself. In contrast, another animal preferred to interact with the weights.

The presentation of the interactive apparatus may have resulted in small but measurable changes in behavior. There was a marginal effect of phase for behavioral diversity, with the highest behavioral diversity indices found in the treatment phase. Social swim states and usage of the bottom of the habitat were highest when the interactive apparatus was being presented. Combined, this suggests that the interactive apparatus may have resulted small changes in behavior.

MA thesis: