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Herrelko, Elizabeth (Betsy)

Animal Welfare & Research Manager

Integrative Behavior & Wellness (BeWell): In pursuit of elevating animal welfare through research, practice, outreach, and compliance.


Background And Education

Education And Training

Professional Biography

  • Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Herrelko is the Animal Welfare and Research Manager at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. She focuses on advancing animal welfare science with an emphasis on animal management and how animals think. Betsy leads the Animal Welfare and Animal Care and Use Committees to ensure compliance with regulations and facilitate best practices for all species at the zoo, is responsible for overseeing research within Animal Care Sciences, and consults across animal care units on applied practices. She joined the Zoo in 2012 as the David Bohnett Cognitive Research Fellow studying cognitive bias (a measure of emotional affect) in apes. Prior to the Smithsonian, Betsy earned her master’s degree from Hunter College (New York) and her PhD from the University of Stirling (Scotland). In addition to traditional dissemination of information methods in academia, Betsy also communicates her science story through natural history documentaries. Her work with primates has been featured on the BBC, Animal Planet, and Discovery Channel.

Research And Grants

Research Overview

  • Ongoing projects:
    - Cognitive bias in great apes
    - Inequity in research opportunities with great apes
    - Personality predictors of chimpanzee introduction outcomes
    - Behavioral predictors of giant panda estrus-related events
    - Assessment and intervention of sea lion regurgitation

    2010       University of Stirling, Psychology Travel Grant

                    Amount awarded: 800 GBP


    2009       Overseas Research Student Award Scheme (ORSAS)

                    Amount awarded: 12,000 GBP


    2008       Scotland-USA Grant

                    Amount awarded: 2,000 GBP


Selected Publications


  • Presentation

    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2018. Animal Behavior and Enrichment in Zoos [presentation]. All Creatures Big and Small: Enrichment for Laboratory Animals Symposium, April 1, 2018. Boston, MA.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2010. Assessing welfare: A new cognitive research programme for the chimpanzees of Budongo Trail, RZSS [presentation]. XXIII Congress of the International Primatological Society, Kyoto University, September 1, 2010. Kyoto, Japan.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2017. Behavioral responses to inequity in research opportunities in gorillas and orangutans at the Smithsonian's National Zoo [presentation]. American Society of Primatologists (Annual Conference), August 1, 2017. Washington, D.C..
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2017. Beyond the cognitive task: A broader view of great ape participation in research activities (Poster) [presentation]. 3rd International Symposium on Zoo Animal Welfare, October 1, 2017. Brookfield, IL.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2012. Chimpanzee introductions in a zoo: Predicting success and monitoring outcomes over time [presentation]. XXIV Congress of the International Primatological Society, 2012 -08-01. Cancun, Mexico.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2017. Elephant Welfare: What makes a happy elephant? [presentation]. Asian Elephants: A Comprehensive Conservation Strategy. Smithsonian's National Zoo., October 1, 2017. Washington, D.C..
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2011. Ethical considerations in chimpanzee research: Animal welfare and public perception [presentation]. 13th Annual BIAZA Research Symposium. Bristol Zoo, July 1, 2011. Bristol, England.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2016. Evidence-based welfare: Lessons from merging two groups of zoo-living chimpanzees [presentation]. Joint Meeting of the International Primatological Society of the American Socity of Primatologists, August 1, 2016. Chicago, IL.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2016. From the Trenches: Telling your story in an intimidating,scientific world [presentation]. National Capital AAZK 3rd Annual Regional Symposium, Smithsonian's National Zoo, March 1, 2016. Washington, D.C..
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2016. Herd Life: Meeting the physical and behavioral needs of Asian elephants through exhibit design [presentation]. Elephant Wellness Workship, Jacksonville Zoo, March 1, 2016. Jacksonville, Florida.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2009. Is training for cognitive testing stressful? A comparison of self-directed behaviours of chimpanzees [presentation]. Primate Society of Great Britain Winter Meeting, Zoological Society of London, December 1, 2009. London, England.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2010. Lights camera action: A multi-organisational partnership with a zoo university and wildlife filmmakers [presentation]. 12th Annual BIAZA Research Symposium, Chester Zoo, July 1, 2010. Chester, England.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2013. Personality assessment and animal welfare decisions [presentation]. 2nd International Symposium on Zoo Animal Welfare: Innovations & Future Directions, June 1, 2013. Brookfield, IL.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2014. Personality assessment and animal welfare decisions in a zoo [presentation]. National Capital AAZK Regional Conference, Smithsonian's National Zoo, February 1, 2014. Washington, D.C..
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2015. Regurgitation and reingestion in a California sea lion: Assessment and intervention [presentation]. National Capital AAZK 2nd Annual Regional Symposium. Smithsonian's National Zoo., January 1, 2015. Washington, D.C..
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2012. Social enrichment through animal introductions [presentation]. Regional Environmental Enrichment Conference, March 1, 2012. Port Lympne, England.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2009. Training for cognitive testing as a method of enrichment in Budongo Trail, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland [presentation]. International Conference on Environmental Enrichment, June 1, 2009. Torquay, England.
    • Herrelko, Elizabeth S. 2018. Welfare Considerations for Great Apes: Captivity vs Wild [presentation]. BIAZA and the University of Birmingham's Great Ape Welfare Stakeholder Workshop, March 1, 2018. Birmingham, England.

Featured In


Teaching Overview

  • Animal Behaviour (University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland)

    • Discussion classes: Ethics
    • Practicals: Observational research with squirrel monkeys and brown capuchins


    Animal Behavior and Conservation in the Media (Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park)

    • Adult education course (three, 90-minute classes)


    Animal Thinking and Emotion (Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park)

    • Adult education course (three, 90-minute classes)


    Animal Welfare (University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland)

    • Semester-long course
    • Course coordinator/instructor with Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith


    Animal Welfare Training for Volunteers (Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park)

    • In-person training sessions and online module for paid staff (a collaborative effort)


    Professional Development Courses (Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park)

    • Basic Statistics with Excel
    • Articles: Where to find them an how to identify red flags
    • Quick and dirty tips to evaluate enrichment


    Great Apes Revealed (Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park)

    • Adult education course on primate research (three, 90-minute classes)


    Social Communication (University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland)

    • Lab classes: Writing essays – Literature review, critical analysis, planning, and writing


    Keeper Excellence in Research (American Association of Zoo Keepers)

    • Professional certificate course (12 hours of classwork)
    Co-instructor with Dr. Erika Bauer and Dr. Jilian Fazio