Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Research Psychology (MS)




Dr. Eduardo J Fernandez

Second Reader

Dr. Baine B Craft


Animal-Visitor Interactions, harbor seals, Northern fur seals, Introduction Effects, Introduction Experiences, animal welfare


Modern zoos and aquariums are defined by several primary goals, which include improving the welfare of their animals, public education, and inspiring visitors to develop an interest in conservation. Animal-Visitor Interactions (AVIs) (i.e., the impact of captive animals and visitors on each other) are a primary means to study these goals. The introduction of new animals into two seal exhibits – the harbor and Northern fur seals – at the Seattle Aquarium presented a valuable opportunity to assess the impacts of both introductions and AVIs on visitors and currently exhibited animals. The impacts of animal introductions were measured through direct observations of Crowd Size, Visitor Length of Stay, and seal activity before and after new seal introductions. This study consisted of two experiments: Experiment 1 (harbor seal exhibit), and Experiment 2 (Northern fur seal exhibit). In Experiment 1, results suggest that the introduction had few impacts on the existing harbor seals nor on visitor activity. In Experiment 2, the introduction of a new fur seal had significant positive impacts on the Social and Stereotypic behaviors of the existing fur seal, as well as a significant increase in Crowd Size post-introduction. Based on these findings, new animal introductions were associated with neutral to positive changes in both seal and visitor activity. By understanding the effects of animal introductions on both animals and visitors, we can better understand the welfare of animals through their social housing arrangements, the experiences and education of visitors, and the potential Animal-Visitor Interactions that such introductions promote.

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