Conservation and the Elephant Listening Project

The Elephant Listening Project is a not-for-profit organization associated with the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  ELP strives to study the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) through recordings of the forests that serve as their home, picking up both natural and unnatural sounds – not only the calls of elephants to each other, but also the sounds of human involvement.  Graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of fields have contributed to the analysis of this data.

“Over the last twelve years the project called ELP has found ways to discern key aspects of the forest elephants’ life experience (the sizes and composition of their herds, movements of populations from place to place, evidence of mating, maternal responses to infants, evidence of distress and flight, and of the gunshots and chainsaws that reveal poaching) by listening to the forest from fixed recorders in the trees.”

– Katy Payne
Living With Sound, February 2013.

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Event: Spotted Hyena Reproduction

Dr. Place was in private practice as a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) for 4 years in Waynesboro, Virginia before earning a Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Washington.  He came to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2004 as an Associate Professor in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Statistics and Director of the Endocrinology Laboratory at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center.  Dr. Place often refers to himself as a “rehabilitated” gynecologist, focusing his research on mammalian reproductive biology, eco-immunology, and aging.

From the Ned J. Place Lab website:

Dr. Place has studied reproductive aging in naked mole-rats, Siberian hamsters and cheetahs, seasonal reproductive biology in free-ranging yellow-pine chipmunks, and sexual differentiation and behavior in spotted hyenas under semi-natural conditions. Each animal model has provided an interesting perspective into the life history trade-offs that are associated with the timing of hormone secretion and reproductive effort. Dr. Place takes an integrative approach to his research, which is often relevant from both an ecological and a biomedical perspective.

Graduate and undergraduate students interested in comparative endocrinology and reproductive physiology and behavior are encouraged to apply. Our current model organisms are naked mole-rats and cheetahs – refer to research tab for details. However, students are encouraged to consider other systems that might better address their area(s) of interest. Trainees in my lab learn and use a variety of techniques to research questions at multiple levels of investigation (e.g. qRT-PCR, microarray, measures of immune function, immunohistochemistry, behavioral studies, mating tests).

Students interested in pursuing graduate work in my lab should contact me directly after they have read the statement of my current research interests and some of the papers that are listed on my publication page. If you decide our interests are well matched, please send a letter and c.v. via email (, and describe why you think my lab would be a good fit for you. I usually reply promptly, but send a follow-up email in a couple of weeks if you’ve not heard back from me.