Suzanne E. MacDonald

PhD (Alberta)
University Professor of Psychology and Biology
Research Areas: Ecology and Population Biology; Animal Behaviour, Comparative Cognition

Research Focus:

Research in my laboratory is comparative in approach. We study a wide range of primate species (gorillas, orangutans, Old and New World monkeys, prosimians) in "naturalistic" environments, at the Toronto Zoo and other zoos across North America. We are also involved in several projects looking at reproductive behavior in endangered species, including cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, Vancouver Island marmots, and black-footed ferrets.

My research interests center on the cognitive mechanisms involved in foraging behaviour. A major focus of the work is on spatial memory -- how do animals remember where they have been? How do animals encode and use complex information about their environments? I am also interested in the types of strategies animals use while foraging, and am looking at social foraging in several primate species. Practical applications of this work include increasing the psychological well-being of captive zoo animals through behavioural enrichment and improved habitat design.

Selected Publications:

Dupuis-Desormeaux M, Davy C, Lathrop A, Followes E, Ramesbottom A, Chreston A, MacDonald SE. (2018).  Colonization and usage of an artificial urban wetland complex by freshwater turtles. PeerJ 6:e5423

Adams, L.C., & MacDonald, S.E. (2018).  Spontaneous preference for primate photographs in Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii)International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 31, 1-16

Tvetskov, N, Madani, B., Krimus, L., MacDonald, S.E. & Zayed, A. (2018).  A new protocol for measuring spatial learning and memory in the hone bee Apis mellifera:  effects of behavioural state and cGMP.  Insectes Sociaux, DOI 10.1007/s00040-018-0641-8

Adams, L.C, Wilkinson, F.E. &  MacDonald, S.E. (2017).  Limits of spatial vision in orangutans (Pongo abelii). Animal Behavior and Cognition, 4(3): 204-222.

Dupuis-Desormeaux, M., Elia, V., Cook, C., Pearson, J., Adhikari, V., & MacDonald, S.E. (2017).  Remarkable male bias in a population of midland painted turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) at a site with a history of significant wildlife-vehicle collisions in Ontario, Canada.  Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 12(1): 225-232.

Ritvo, S.E., & MacDonald, S.E.  (2016). Music as enrichment for Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii).   Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research 4(3), 156-163.

Lockyear, K.M., MacDonald, S.E., Waddell, W.T. & Goodrowe , K.L.  (2016).  Investigation of captive red wolf fresh ejaculate characteristics in relation to age and inbreeding. Theriogenology, 86(5): 1369-1375.

MacDonald, S.E. & Ritvo, S.  (2016).  Comparative Cognition out of the Laboratory. Comparative Cognition and Behavior Reviews, 11: 49-62.

Dupuis-Desormeaux, M., Davidson, Z., Mwololo, M., Kisio, E., & MacDonald, S.E. (2016).  Usage of specialized fence-gaps in a black rhinoceros conservancy in Kenya.  African Journal of Wildlife Research 46(1):  22-32.  DOI:

Dupuis-Desormeaux, M., Davidson, Z., Pratt, L, Mwololo, M., & MacDonald, S.E. (2016).  Testing the effects of exclusionary fencing on predation patterns in a Kenyan wildlife conservancy. PeerJ,  DOI 10.7717/peerj.1681

Desormeaux, M.,Davidson, Z., Mwololo, M., Kisio, E., and MacDonald, S.E. (2016)..  Comparing motion-capture cameras versus human observer monitoring of mammal movement through fence gaps: A case study from Kenya. African Journal of Ecology.  DOI: 10.1111/aje.12277