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What We Do

Scientific Advancement

The Tulsa Zoo is committed to supporting, facilitating and conducting scientific advancement. Recent projects have included genetics, physiology, health and behavior, all of which allow us to provide the best care possible to our animals. Below are a few examples of our current scientific advancement  projects and partnerships.


Diana guenon -- Emily HallfordDiana guenon

Project location: Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire, located in West Africa, Ohio State University and Tulsa Zoo
Project focus: Hormone study
Project status: Ongoing

Ohio State University has partnered with the Tulsa Zoo to participate in a significant research project with our Diana monkeys. This study is investigating if hormones can accurately reflect physiological changes based on the levels of corticosterone and progesterone. The levels of these two hormones will be used to assess stress and reproductive cycling with Diana’s held in zoos and then compared to the results of similar data which was collected from wild Diana monkeys in Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire, located in West Africa.
Results from this study will be used as an integral part a PhD student’s dissertation research at Ohio State University and will also be shared and presented at numerous anthropology, primatology, and/or wildlife endocrinology conferences, with eventual plans to have the results publish in relevant scientific journals.


Development of bird brainStudying the Development of the Modern Bird Brain

 Project location: Oklahoma State University and Tulsa Zoo
Project focus: Physiology and Avian Natural History

Project status: Ongoing

Taking to the air afforded the ancestors of the modern bird access to a range of ecological niches that now underlie the remarkable diversity of modern avifauna. A significant part of this success is thought to have stemmed from the independent acquisition of a mammal-like, hyper-inflated brain (up to 11-fold greater than other living reptiles), which has long been considered necessary for coordinating the visual, vestibular, tactile, and motor components of powered flight. This study seeks to address the question, how did the highly encephalized brain of modern birds come about?

This research has been working to address this question, starting with the dinosaur transition to birds. Researchers have recently documented at least three pulses of encephalization, which together both pre-and postdate the appearance of presumed flighted taxa in the avian fossil record (Balanoff et al., 2013). These findings suggest a more nuanced pattern of brain evolution than was previously considered at the origin of modern Aves. To fully understand the deep history of avian encephalization and its contribution to flight function, we seek to tie the modern bird brain to its evolutionary origins by examining the functional and anatomical diversity of extant and extinct forms.


IMG_0061American flamingo

The Tulsa Zoo wants to provide the absolute best care for our animals and is currently conducting scientific advancement that allows us to learn how certain medications work and their effectiveness when given.

Project location: Tulsa Zoo
Project focus: Pharmacokinetics – medication dosing

Project status: Completed

Oral administration through hands-off approaches in avian species is often difficult requiring restraint of the animal to administer an oral or injectable medication. This can increases stress on the animal and effect their health, therefore discovering a long acting formulation of medication will be beneficial in reducing the animals stress during medicating periods and will be very beneficial to the health and care of our flamingos.

This project will provide information allowing us to provide optimal care to our large colony of American flamingos. Since we have such a large group of flamingos, we have an excellent opportunity to conduct this scientific advancement and to share our data with other zoos around the world and within the scientific community. The discoveries made with this scientific advancement  will improve the veterinary care of the species as a whole. This will be the first published pharmacokinetic study with American flamingos and will be providing species-specific information in an area that has so far lacked scientific advancement.