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Dr. Kaci Thompson
Instructor of Biological Sciences and
Director, Undergraduate Research and Internship Programs

1313 Symons Hall
College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland 20742

Research Interests: Animal Behavior and Chemosensory Communication; Innovations in Science Education

     My research currently focuses on two very different topics: the evolution of play behavior in juvenile mammals and the role of chemical communication in controlling reproductive physiology.

     My current play behavior research involves the playground activities of pre-school children. The objective of the study are to examine the predictions of a novel theory of why young animals play. According to self assessment theory, play consists of a series of development al tests designed by young individuals to assess their developing physical competence. Human children provide an excellent model for such a study because play behavior is very frequent and occurs in predictable locations (playgrounds) that contain a variety of obstacles suitable for testing developmental competence.

     I have also been conducting a long-term investigation of chemical influences on reproduction in female sable antelope. This research is a collaborative effort with Dr. Steven Monfort, Department of Reproductive Physiology, National Zoological Park. Behavioral evidence suggests that flehmen, a conspicuous grimace exhibited after direct oral contact with conspecific urine, mediates reproductive synchrony in female sable antelope. Our goal is to test the relationship between urine sampling and a female's ability to alter the timing of her estrous cycle. We are using fecal steroid analyses to monitor female reproductive physiology non-invasively and have developed methods of experimentally manipulating estrous cyclicity. This has allowed us to use an experimental approach to document adjustments in estrous cycles and to isolate the effects of the social environment on attainment of reproductive synchrony.


Firestone, K.B., K.V. Thompson and C.S. Carter. 1991. Female-female interactions and social stress in prairie voles. Behavioral and Neural Biology 55:31-41.

Thompson, K.V. 1995. Flehmen and birth synchrony in female sable antelope, Hippotragus niger. Animal Behaviour 50: 475-484.

Thompson, K.V., M. Roberts and W.F. Rall. 1995. Factors affecting pair compatibility in the kangaroo rat, Dipodomys heermanni. Zoo Biology 14:317-330.

Thompson, K.V. 1996. Behavioral development and play. In: Wild Mammals in Captivity: Principles and Techniques (D.G. Kleiman, M.E. Allen, K.V. Thompson, S.Lumpkin and H. Harris,eds.), pp. 352-371. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kleiman, D.G., M.E. Allen, K.V. Thompson, S.Lumpkin and H. Harris, eds. 1996. Wild Mammals in Captivity: Principles and Techniques. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Thompson, K.V. 1996. Play partner preferences and the function of social play in infant sable antelope, Hippotragus niger. Animal Behaviour 52: 1143-1155..

Thompson, K.V., K.L. Mashburn and S.L. Monfort. 1998. Characterization of estrous cyclicity in the sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) through fecal progestagen monitoring. General and Comparative Endocrinology 112: 129-137.

Thompson, K.V. 1998. The effects of birth clustering and birth date on social integration in sable antelope, Hippotragus niger. Animal Behaviour 56: 1005-1014.

Thompson, K.V. and S.L. Monfort. 1999. Synchronization of estrous cycles in the sable antelope, Hippotragus niger. Animal Reproduction Sciences 57: 185-197.

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