Kristina Horback

Lab Director

CV_ (June 2021)

Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi (2012)

Dissertation: Temporal consistency of personality assessment in African elephants

M.A. Experimental Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi (2011)
Thesis: Variations in inter-specific social behavior throughout the estrous cycle of a killer whale

B.A. Psychology, University of California: San Diego (2007)

Dr. Horback is an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Science and is a faculty member of the Center for Animal Welfare at UC Davis. She is trained in animal cognition and comparative psychology and uses these skills to assess the psychological welfare (e.g., affective state, behavioral needs) of domestic farm animals and wild animals housed at zoos and aquariums. Specific research topics include how personality traits are related to individual differences in coping ability and cognitive processing.


UC Davis Department of Animal Science

UC Davis College of Biological Sciences

UC Davis Center for Animal Welfare

Maggie Creamer

Graduate Student (PhD Animal Behavior)

B.S. Psychology, University of North Carolina (2016)

Maggie is assessing how beef cattle personality types influence grazing distribution on extensive rangeland.


Research Gate Page


Kal Schiller

Graduate Student (PhD Animal Biology)

B.S. Animal Science, University of Wisconsin-River Falls (2017)

Kal is investigating the relationship between individual differences in stress coping and maternal responsiveness in ewes.




Claire Jones

Graduate Student (PhD Animal Behavior)

MSc Animal Biology, UC Davis (2021)
BA Animal Behavior, Hampshire College (2017)

For her master’s thesis, Claire examined the relationship between the complexity of rearing environment and proper development of depth perception in egg laying hens.

Claire is investigating how personality can influence cognitive processing among domestic sows.


Yasmeen Ghavamian

Graduate Student (PhD Animal Biology)

BA Biology, Sonoma State University (2018)
MS Biology, Sonoma State University (2020)

Yasmeen conducted her master’s research at Sonoma State University to investigate the effects of complex feeding enrichment on the stereotypic behavior of the sun bears at Oakland Zoo.

Yasmeen is researching how captive North America gray wolf (Canis lupus) personality may impact cognitive enrichment engagement for her PhD.



Francesca Whitehead

Graduate Student (PhD Animal Behavior)

BS Animal Care, University of Padua (2020)
MS Wild Animal Biology, Royal Veterinary College (2022)

For her master’s thesis, Francesca carried out a personality assessment in captive red pandas across four different UK zoos.Check back in soon to see what she’ll be doing for the PhD!



Catie McVey


BSc Animal Science and Statistics, North Carolina State University (2016)

MSc Livestock Systems, Colorado State University (2019)

MAS Applied Statistics, Colorado State University (2019)

PhD Animal Biology, UC Davis (2022)

Catie explored novel analytical approaches to the evaluation of livestock big data sources (imaging, on-animal sensors, RFID logs) to measure animal welfare and personality.


Research Gate Page