Argosy University

Argosy University, Denver Student to Spend Summer Studying Elephants in Namibia

Doctoral student selected to participate in Utopia Scientific study of elephants’ social structure, communication, and health

Denver, Colo. (APR 25, 2013)  Argosy University, Denver student, Leslie Kane, will have the opportunity to combine her work in scientific research and her education of behavioral studies with her love of elephants.  Kane, a student in the Doctor of Education in Counselor Education & Supervision program at the university, will spend three weeks in the Mushara area of Etosha National Park, Namibia this July studying elephant behavior. Her experiences there will inform her doctoral research, which is focused on memory and behavior in African elephants.

The project, entitled the Mushara Elephant Expedition 2013, is a part of an ongoing study conducted by Utopia Scientific scientists and contributing volunteers, in partnership with Stanford University and supported by the Oakland Zoo where elephants of the Mushara area of Etosha National Park have been monitored at several different levels to better understand their social structure, communication and health. The study aims to apply knowledge learned to improve care of elephants in captivity and ultimately to aid the cause of elephant conservation in the wild.

Through this endeavor, over 150 known bulls and more than 15 family groups have been cataloged and studied to understand the importance of long distance communication in both the air and ground and the influence and stability of hierarchies within and between groups, the interplay of hormones, hormone suppression and dominance, the role of musth in male society and reproductive health, as well as the influence of relatedness on male associations and bonding. Hormone profiles are linked to observed behaviors and behavioral trends throughout each field season in order to better understand the influence of social and environmental stress on individual behavior as well as at the population level. A camera trap was recently installed on the Mushara research tower in order to document group sizes, association patterns and musth duration throughout the year.

Mushara is a remote water point in Estosha National Park that is closed to the public. While there, Kane will reside inside of a 10 x 10 meter camp that hosts three research students from the United States and one from University of Namibia, as well as expedition leader and research world-renowned elephant expert, Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, who teaches at the Stanford University School of Medicine. They will sleep in tents on the bottom layer of a temporary three-story tower. The second layer of the tower is a 360 degree observation point. The top layer houses the solar panels that provide power to the camp.

The camp has no plumbing, but does have a constant stream of wildlife ranging from birds to lions, all day and night. The camp has a “bush” toilet and shower, and is enclosed in a boma (hide) fence and an electric fence.

Kane is currently working towards her Doctorate in Counselor Education & Supervision in the College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences. She says that she is “thrilled to have been selected for this once in a lifetime opportunity” and feels her education in mental health will help her to contribute to studying and understanding elephants’ long-term memory skills and emotional states, which resemble human emotion. Scientists are looking for non-human models of emotion in order to better understand our own emotions. 

More information on the Mushara Elephant Project can be found at

About Argosy University
Argosy University (, with 28 campus locations in 13 states and its online program, is a private academic institution dedicated to providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs to students in a supportive learning environment where academic knowledge is enriched by the acquisition of interpersonal skills vital to success.  Argosy University has seven colleges: Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Business, Education, Health Sciences, Undergraduate Studies, The Art Institutes and Western State College of Law.  With one of the largest communities of graduate students in the nation, Argosy University offers doctoral and master’s degree programs in Psychology, Business, Counseling and Education.  The institution also offers bachelor’s degree programs in Psychology, Business, Liberal Arts and Criminal Justice and, through The Art Institutes, serves as an important source of education for design, media arts, fashion and culinary arts students and professionals.  Degree level and programs offered vary by location. Full and part-time law programs are offered through Western State College of Law. Argosy University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, California, 94501, Licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, License No. 2610, 2630. See for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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