2009: Diann Gaalema

Georgia Institute of Technology, Zoo Atlanta

Diann Gaalema is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont. She earned her Ph.D. in experimental psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she focused on animal behavior. Under the direction of Dr. M. J. Marr and Dr. Terry Maple, Diann began her work of applying behavioral principles to the exotic reptiles at Zoo Atlanta. Using operant techniques, she trained large and potentially dangerous animals (Aldabra tortoises and a Komodo dragon) to comply with various husbandry and veterinary procedures. Additionally, she was able to use these techniques for more basic research, studying the learning and discrimination abilities of various types of monitor lizards. Later, Diann shifted her focus from operant conditioning to Pavlovian and from reptiles to amphibians. For her dissertation work, she used sexual conditioning—a type of Pavlovian conditioning where the conditional stimulus signals access to a member of the opposite sex—to improve breeding outcomes in South American frogs. Read the paper that resulted from her SABA dissertation grant.


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