From RCC to NYC: An exciting new journey to come for Courtney Parent

Courtney Parent

Graduate school applications. Yes, that phrase has huge implications, and it is a task that can be overwhelming. For Reading Comprehension and Cognition (RCC) Lab alum, Courtney Parent (PSY ’19), that belief held true. Despite the weight of grad school applications, she received news that she was admitted to the Developmental Psychology graduate program at Teachers College, Columbia University (TC) to begin working towards her Master’s degree in the fall.

Courtney always knew she wanted to work with children, originally attending UNE as a Pre-Med/Biology major with the hopes of becoming a pediatrician. However, after taking Lifespan Development as a sophomore, she decided to pursue a degree in psychology instead and find a career path in which she loved what she was studying while still wanting to help children.

She became a teaching assistant and a research assistant under Dr. Jennifer Stiegler-Balfour, Associate Professor of Psychology, in the RCC Lab. From leading review sessions and helping students, spending a summer learning how to develop a novel research study, and everything in between, these experiences all have given Courtney a small taste of the world of academia. “I am truly grateful for all of the knowledge I’ve gained from working in the RCC Lab. Working under Dr. Stiegler-Balfour has allowed me to grow in so many ways, and I am humbled to have had the opportunity to learn from her. Her support is unwavering, and I feel so appreciative of her mentorship throughout my undergraduate career.” Courtney is now working towards becoming a professor who also conducts research on children with congenital heart defects (CHDs).

During the application process, she kept in mind these research interests, as well as the typical class size. “When researching TC’s program, I noticed that I would have the option to focus my course of study into one of three areas. One of these areas resonated with me as it falls in line with my future research interests,” Courtney explains. “Growing up in a small town and attending a small university allowed me to realize how much I value that small-school atmosphere. For me, that was another important deciding factor,” she adds.

Courtney is thankful to have had the support of her family, friends, and mentors at UNE. “Even after graduation, your professors and advisors are still a tremendous resource. They will help you to ensure that your application is top-notch because they want you to succeed post-graduation, and that’s what separates UNE from other institutions.” She adds that, “Since receiving the email notifying me of my acceptance, I have been still so shocked that I was one of the few applicants to be accepted out of the many who applied. I feel so humbled to be placed with such an elite group of people in the field of developmental psychology. I am truly blessed to have had an unforgettable undergraduate experience at UNE to help get me here.”

Thanks to Courtney for sharing her story with us. To learn more about the Psychology major, visit our webpages at

My Animal Behavior Internship at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (RCNWR), Wells, Maine

A guest post by Luke Burns about his PSY 495 internship

My name is Luke Burns, I am a graduating Animal Behavior major with a minor in Environmental Studies. For the Spring of 2020, I interned with the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (RCNWR) in Wells, Maine. My internship position was under the Refuge’s Wildlife Biologist, Jeffrey Tash, who had me on his team for his on-going New England Cottontail Restoration project. His office and funding was through the Wildlife Refuge, but most of our work was  happening at the Wells Reserve, which neighbored the refuge’s land on two sides.

Most of my work was collecting field data with/for Jeff. It started in January with primarily setting out and maintaining feeder sites and trail cams in the Wells Reserve. The above image is me standing over one of our four feeder sites that were set in the previous Winter. Each feeder site had a trail cam that I would swap batteries and SD cards to bring back and check trail cam photos with Jeff for rabbits or other animals (Deer, opossum, raccoons, predators). Also the ‘shell chamber” has a wooden floor and I would leave rabbit chow as an incentive and supplement for rabbits to eat, but these sites were not made to be reliable food sources. They were set to be attractive, but not relied on by any animal. Also in the Winter and early Spring I would look for rabbit tracks or signs in the snow (Browse, pellets, prints, fur). The feeder sites and camera were moved when predators were seen on trail cams and seemed to learn to stalk the sites waiting for rabbits. A Fisher was seen early March on cam and forced us to pick up the feeders.

Towards the end of my time on-site (Mid-March), I had an idea with Jeff to set out trail cams in more popular areas of the reserve without feeder sites, and see how much “traffic” there is without influence. As an idea of baseline data, we wanted to get an idea of population to see how the New England Cottontail population is growing this spring (2020). I may not see the results in person but I am staying in contact with Jeff and the Reserve after graduation. I also helped a small amount with many other aspects of the project off-site working with the public and private landowners in the surrounding towns.

My RCNWR internship was definitely a better experience than I was expecting and I’m thankful for the experience I had with it. The part that best helped me learn was seeing how multi-disciplined the project was as I became more involved with it. The project was bigger than just the Refuge and the Reserve. It reached many different town landowners and workers, several zoos in New England helped raise Cottontail kits, Maine and U.S. Fish and Wildlife were involved with land and species protection. To be in a position to see so many different people have a role in the project’s success was very interesting to learn about.

Also, I enjoyed being a part of a long-term project that may continue after my time involved and will continue to grow and succeed. I enjoyed knowing that my field work and data will be put into a larger source that will be used to help the general public. I feel after this internship that I would be more interested in finding work with a long-term project that I can help see succeed. Research was never something I seriously considered until starting here and it is something I could see myself doing going forward as a career.

Talking to my boss and his colleagues also showed me how important flexibility and strength in many fields would be important and useful going forward. There are many directions that field research can go into that I have not seriously considered like GIS, data analysis, and other qualitative skills. My position has seriously helped me grow and find a career path I would be excited to go down in the near future.

Our thanks to Luke for sharing his experience with us. All Animal Behavior majors complete at least one internship, PSY 495, as part of their degree and work closely with a faculty supervisor as part of the experience. For more information about the animal behavior major at UNE, please visit:

Want to know more about Dr. Stevenson? Here’s your chance!

Ravin Davis, a Neuroscience major here at UNE (class of ’21), recently wrote a fun piece for the Nor’Easter online student newspaper. The piece is our own Dr. Glenn Stevenson’s previous “lives” as a professional musician and hotel bartender. Dr. Stevenson is a Professor of Psychology and teaches courses for Neuroscience, Animal Behavior, and Psychology majors.

Ravin has been working with Dr. Stevenson in his research lab and will be promoted to lab manager next year.

Check out her amazing story here:

To learn more about the Neuroscience major, Dr. Stevenson’s work, and research opportunities available to students in the department, visit our website at:

Vienna Canright (ANB ‘ 22) receives Goldwater Scholarship

The Psychology Department faculty and staff are proud to announce that Vienna Canright, Animal Behavior major (class of ’22), has been selected to receive a 2020 Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

Vienna is interested in wildlife conservation and consistent with this, has been conducting research with Dr. Zach Olson, Associate Professor of Psychology and core faculty member in the Animal Behavior program. In one of her projects Vienna and Dr. Olson developed an experiment to test if a novel method of detecting bats using environmental DNA (eDNA) would work. In another project, Vienna and Dr. Olson explored eDNA detection of Northern bog lemmings. These collaborative projects has already been presented at a professional meeting and publications are in progress. Vienna has also previously conducted field work on seabirds on the west coast.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Goldwater Scholarship, here’s a brief description from their website:

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate.

By providing scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering, the Goldwater Foundation is helping ensure that the U.S. is producing the number of highly-qualified professionals the Nation needs in these critical fields. Over its 30-year history, Goldwater Scholarships have been awarded to thousands of undergraduates, many of whom have gone on to win other prestigious awards like the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Fellowship, Rhodes Scholarship, Churchill Scholarship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship that support our Scholars’ graduate school work. Today, Goldwater alumni can be found conducting research that is helping defend the Nation, finding cures for catastrophic diseases and teaching future generations of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

Only 396 college students from the United States were selected for Goldwater Scholarships this year, putting Vienna in very good company.

Dr. Olson nominated Vienna for the award and shared the following thoughts about her and her work:

Vienna came to the [research] work with ideas, a fantastic ability to organize and trouble shoot, and most importantly had the drive to see the work through. … I have been impressed by her poise, focus, and clear professionalism when it comes to both her classes and certainly her research. …. Vienna has an inquisitive nature, and my conversations with her have revealed a deep passion for wildlife conservation.

personal communication from Z. Olson

We congratulate Vienna for this amazing accomplishment and look forward to her work over the next two years here at UNE!

For more information about the Animal Behavior major and the research projects that faculty and students within our department are conducting, please visit

Why You should study Animal Behavior, Neuroscience, and Psychology at UNE!

Are you thinking about starting college soon? Trying to decide whether UNE might be the right home for you? Are you interested in Animal Behavior, Neuroscience, or Psychology?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’re in the right place. We have three videos for you to learn from our current students about what they love about UNE and our majors. Watch just one or all three and learn about what make UNE an amazing place to be!

Animal Behavior Major

Watch Animal Behavior students and Dr. Zach Olson talk about their major here:

Neuroscience Major

Watch Neuroscience students and Dr. Glenn Stevenson talk about their major here:

Psychology Major

Watch Psychology students and Dr. Jennifer Steigler-Balfour talk about their major here:


Want to learn more about Psychology, Neuroscience, or Animal Behavior at UNE? Be sure to read more on our blog or visit our webpages:

Congrats to Mackenzie Deveau (PSY, ’19) and Dr. Peterson

Be sure to check out the amazing work that Mackenzie Deveau and Dr. Julie Peterson, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program, have been conducting!

To learn more about the research experiences in which students in the Psychology, Animal Behavior, and Neuroscience program can get involved, check out our faculty descriptions:

Prof Perazio spends time with humpback whales in the Gulf of Tribugá

A guest post by Professor Christina Perazio, Assistant Lecturer

When I’m not teaching students about killer whale ecotypes, tool use in animals, or how to design a valid research study, you can find me recording and analyzing the acoustic behavior of humpback whales. This past 2019 summer field season marked the 7th and final year of data collection towards my dissertation investigating long-term and global changes in humpback whale song.

Through collaborations with Macuáticos Colombia and the PHySIC Project (Ports, Humpbacks, y Sound in Colombia), I have been recording humpback whales since 2013 in their breeding grounds along the Pacific coast of Colombia. This distinct population segment (DPS) of humpback wales migrates north from Antarctica and southern Chile to breed in waters off the coast of Colombia and Panama. Song has long been suggested to be a complex vocal display used by males to increase mating success, although many specific hypotheses have been proposed and debated in the literature. Along with my colleagues, our team has been the first to publish on the song of stock G in the Colombian Pacific using over-the-side and bottom-mounted hydrophones (underwater microphones used to record vocalizations of both whales and dolphins).

The Gulf of Tribugá is one of the remaining pristine marine habitats for humpback whales and has recently been listed as a Hope Spot by Mission Blue due to its biodiversity. With the proposed construction of a marine port in the locality of Tribugá by the Colombian government, this habitat is being threatened. Along with my colleagues I am trying to better understand how humpback whales might be able to flexibly change their acoustic behavior in response to inevitable changes in their environment by understanding the role that song plays in their lives.

Check out @physicolombia or @macuaticos for more information!

You can learn more about whales, other marine mammals, and other animals in general as part of the Animal Behavior major and minor. Check out our webpages at

Psychology Faculty and Students Present (at NEPA)

This month (November 2019) faculty and students from across New England gathered to share their work and learn about psychology. Ten current UNE students, two alumni, and two faculty members from the Psychology Department attended the New England Psychological Association to present the work they have been conducting at UNE.

Olivia Kudas, Julia Beebe, Kristin Macek, Alexus Campobasso, Katelynn Paul, Benjamin Katz, and Dr. Trish Long (Clinical Professor & Chair, Department of PSY) presented their project from the Life Experiences lab entitled Sexual Assault and Bystander Behavior: The Role of Feminine Ideology, Rape Myth Acceptance, Exposure to Sexism, and Modeling of Appropriate Responses.

Dr. Long and alumni Benjamin Katz also presented a poster on Childhood Maltreatment and Parental and Friend Emotional Socialization.

Students from the Self and Close Others Relationship lab spoke with attendees about work entitled Women Decrease Mental Overlap with Same-Sex Friends and Family Members after Recalling Gender-Based Mistreatment, authored by Kana Colarossi, Ashley Karpowicz, Mackenzie Deveau, and Dr. Julie Peterson, Associate Professor of Psychology.

Work entitled Experimental Incorporation of Others into the Self-Concept: Does It Hurt More than It Helps? was presented by Hannah Christian, Sara Authier, Eric Lederman, and Dr. Peterson.

Students from the Reading Comprehension and Cognition lab were also well represented at NEPA. Work authored by Aubrey Sahouria, Nicole Martin, Ellie Leighton, and Dr. Jennifer Stiegler-Balfour, Associate Professor of Psychology, entitled Can Font Change How You Read? Exploring Font Type’s Effect on Recall and Reading Speed on E-Readers was presented as was a project entitled An Investigation of Reading Comprehension Ability Measures and Text Type, by Genna Companatico, Courtney Parent, and Dr. Stiegler-Balfour.

Dr. Stiegler-Balfour also presented a paper co-authored with aluma Ellie Leighton entitled An Investigation into the Effects of Structure Building Ability on Comprehension on E-readers for Expository and Narrative Text.

UNE undergraduates who are interested in exploring research opportunities in these three labs can contact the faculty supervisors. A list of all faculty in the department and their research programs can be found here: Click on faculty member’s names to learn more about their interests and work.

Dr. Zach Olson publishes on free-roaming cats in the journal Wildlife Research

Congratulations to Dr. Zach Olson who recently published a journal article in the journal Wildlife Research ( Dr. Olson and his collaborators studied free-roaming house cats – both where they occur on the landscape and how numerous they were. Free-roaming cats are important to study because they are one of the leading killers of birds and small mammals where they exist (here’s a popular press article describing ‘outdoor’ cat impacts:

The study found that the most important predictor of free-roaming cat presence in a given natural study site was that site’s proximity to human housing and not more natural measures of habitat quality. We can draw two conclusions from that information: 1) free-roaming cats aren’t existing on the landscape like a wild population or a wild species. Rather, they are likely being subsidized (either fed or housed) by people, and 2) the problem that outdoor cats cause in the ecosystem is not likely to be solved using traditional tools of wildlife conservation. Instead, if we want to solve the feral cat problem, we need to convince people to change their behavior and keep their house cats inside.

Be sure to check out the article at the link provided above for more information. If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Olson’s work, check out his bio at:

UNE undergraduates who have interested in engaging in research with Dr. Olson can contact him at Learn more about the Animal Behavior major and minor (Dr. Olson is the program coordinator for these programs at

You can also read the university’s press release about this at

Neuroscience Mixer!

Interested in Neuroscience Research?  Want to know more about the exciting opportunities on campus?  Do you like having fun?  The Center for Excellence in Neuroscience and the Neuroscience Club are co-sponsoring a neuroscience mixer.  All students are welcome to join to hear faculty talk about research opportunities, eat dinner and play games with other interested students and faculty. 

See attached flyer.  November 7, 2019, 6:30-7:30, Harold Alfond Forum 230

Please RSVP to Jenn Malon ( if you are planning to attend, so she knows how much food to order.