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Heide Island, Ph.D.

Heide IslandHeide D Island received her doctorate in Experimental Psychology with specializations in Comparative Animal Behavior and Behavioral Neuroscience at The University of Montana in 2003.

Island came to academics after working in the Alaskan commercial fishing industry alongside her father and as a research naturalist for Pacific Whale Foundation in Hawai’i.

Given a background in marine science, ethology, and behavioral neuroscience, she has cultivated broad research interests which include: 1.) Behavioral ecology, especially related to optimal foraging and choice theory; 2.) Animal welfare, principally as it pertains to animal rehabilitation, conservation, and captivity wellness; and 3.) Comparative psychology of anxiety, depression, and boredom as its expressed among human and nonhuman animals.

Dr. Island is a Professor of Comparative Animal Behavior and Neuroscience at Pacific University in Oregon and a Senior Research Associate for the Oregon Zoo. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator in a 5-year longitudinal study of Whidbey Island’s North American river otters, through the Whidbey Island Research Station in Coupeville. Her interests concern the health of the local otter population, their distribution, diet, foraging patch variability between fresh (e.g., Lake Pondilla, Admirals Lake,  Crockett Lake, etc.) and saltwater (e.g., Admiralty Bay, Bush Point, Bell’s Beach, etc.), photoidentification of individual animals, and their genetic pedigrees, as well as their load of persistent organopollutants, collected through non-invasive scat sampling. The latter is particularly relevant for understanding the health of the local ecology.

Heide is active in a variety of civic and conservation organizations including Whidbey Camano Land Trust, the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, Our House, Oregon Wild, and the Oregon Zoo Foundation. She also consults in support of residential otter management in exchange for access to den sites, scat samples, and information that might forward her understanding of the local otter population. For more information about Dr. Heide Island, as well as a link to Citizen Scientist reporting of residential river otters, please go to her website: