Dr Arik Kershenbaum is a zoologist who has researched animal vocal communication for the past 10 years, and has published more than 20 academic publications on the topic. He received his PhD at the University of Haifa in Israel, where he studied the complex communication of a small and poorly-understood mammal, the rock hyrax, demonstrating the sophisticated syntax of their bird-like songs. He has since concentrated on vocal communication in wolves and dolphins, looking at how their howls and whistles are used to convey specific information about the world around them.
Dr Kershenbaum was Herchel Smith Research Fellow in Zoology at the University of Cambridge, before taking up a fellowship at Girton College. He is a member of the international board of advisors for METI.org, a think tank on the topic of Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.
Although some of Dr Kershenbaum’s research can be carried out with zoo and domestic animals, understanding natural behaviour means that much of his work involves field studies of animal communication in the wild. He has a long-running field site in Yellowstone National Park in the USA, where he deploys a network of automatic recording devices to monitor wolf howling, and triangulate the positions of the wolves, even when they cannot be observed. He also works with colleagues in Spain and Italy studying the interactions between wolves and livestock guardian dogs, testing whether the dog barking and howling acts as a deterrent to predators. The other main study species for this research is wild bottlenose dolphins, which Dr Kershenbaum studies in the Red Sea town of Eilat, Israel. Here, a group of animals frequent a shallow lagoon and interact with human swimmers. By observing the behaviour of the dolphins, and the sounds that they make, Dr Kershenbaum and his students investigate whether dolphins have special sounds, or “words” that they use in human interactions.
Dr Kershenbaum has given interviews to numerous radio and TV stations, including the BBC World Service’s Science in Action https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03nw1yq, Public Radio International’s Living on Earth https://loe.org/shows/segmentprint.html?programID=16-P13-00008&segmentID=8, and PBS’s flagship science TV documentary NOVA Wonders http://nova.wgbhdigital.org/wgbh/nova/nature/what-animals-saying.html.