Julie Hecht is a PhD student in the Animal Behavior and Comparative Psychology training area, with a focus on companion animals. Her field uses knowledge about the behavior and cognitive abilities of companion, farm, zoo and laboratory animals to improve their welfare and the management of their behavior. Her studies began as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Dr. Patricia McConnell. Julie became further interested in the biological and ethological underpinnings of our complex relationship with dogs as Dr. McConnell's research assistant for the book For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend. As an undergraduate, she also pursued other interests, completing a double major in Spanish and Sociology and holding subsequent positions in health care advocacy and fundraising.
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAM
A volunteer position at an animal shelter in NYC reignited Julie's interest in companion animal behavior and welfare. She returned to graduate school at the University of Edinburgh, receiving a Masters with distinction in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare. As part of the program she conducted primary research in dog behavior, cognition and welfare. She spent six months in Budapest with the Family Dog Project at Eötvös Loránd University investigating the canine "guilty look." Her research was published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
In addition to her research into dog cognition, Julie also communicates scientific findings to the general public. She writes the blog Dog Spies on Scientific American and is a member of the National Association of Science Writers. Julie enjoys bringing canine science to all ages, particularly students, and she recently was a guest presenter on dog behavior and cognition at the World Science Festival. She is frequently asked by the media to weigh in on the dog questions of the day and has been interviewed on numerous radio shows as well as for The New York Times, Fox News, Forbes, Salon, and CUNY TV.
Since 2010 she has conducting primary research along with Dr. Alexandra Horowitz at Barnard College on the topics of dog olfactory preferences, dog-human play, common anthropomorphisms, and theory of mind. She has spoken at numerous national and international conferences such as the Canine Science Forum, International Society for Applied Ethology and the Animal Behavior Society. She recently contributed to the ASPCA book, Animal Behavior for Shelter Veterinarians and Staff.
While Julie enjoys working with companion dogs and their owners, for her PhD research she will switch tracks and investigate the cognitive processes of another "best friend" -- companion cats. Few studies investigate cats in their home environment, and she is excited to work alongside her supervisor, Dr. Diana Reiss, an animal cognition expert, to craft activities for cat lovers and their cats. Her goal is to pursue a line of research that not only expands what is known about companion animals, but also brings animal lovers into the scientific process through citizen science.
Her favorite things about the Graduate Center are the opportunities to pursue her research interests, share her findings, and teach undergraduates as well as Masters students at Hunter College's MA Program in Animal Behavior and Conservation. Stay in touch with Julie at @DogSpies