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Human-Animal Interactions

Currently accepting returning VIP students and new students who are freshmen or sophomores

What is the ambitious goal of this project?

Why do so many people own pets? What role do our connections with other species play in solving some of society’s biggest challenges? This team explores the evolutionary foundations of behavior, cognition, and emotion that influence communication, cooperation, and other traits that connect all living beings. All members attend weekly meetings to collaborate and develop research skills. Full engagement in ongoing research is possible after proper training, with opportunities to develop your own project under the guidance of the faculty or graduate students. Enrolled students also become members of the ECHOS Lab here at Boise State, including the option to be represented on the lab’s profiles page. So, join us and find out, do dogs really love us?

Experience Gained

The course provides opportunities for students to engage in the brainstorming, collaboration, and research process by probing questions about human-animal relationships across space and time. This experience will provide you with new skills and knowledge such as:

  • Explore the similarities and differences in the behavior, cognition, and emotion of humans and other species.
  • Develop a One Health perspective toward the welfare of humans and other species.
  • Apply Tinbergen’s Four Questions to human-animal relationships.
  • Understand handling and training related to working with dogs and cats.
  • Strengthen relationships with community partners.
  • Professional Outcomes: – Experiment with the research process, up to and including reading, writing, brainstorming, data curation, analysis, and presentation to academic and general audiences. – Take part in ongoing research or develop individual or group projects.
  • Develop skills related to educational outreach and community building.
  • Methodologies used in this project: case studies, design thinking, fieldwork, fundraising and/or grant writing, laboratory testing, nonprofit management, participant/study observations, qualitative research methods, quantitative research methods, structured interviewing, writing
  • To view a list of current projects, visit the ECHOS Lab Projects page.

Majors or Interests Needed

We’re looking for students with one or more of the following majors or interests:

  • Any/All

VIP Coach Information

Dr. Shelly Volsche, Clinical Assistant Professor in Anthropology


Dr. Volsche received her Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a focus on reproductive choices and the human-animal bond. Using an evolutionary lens, she studies our ever-changing relationships with non-human animals, as well as applying the One Health approach to behavioral health and cross-species relationships. Her current projects investigate both cultural and evolutionary factors of our long history with companion animals.

Course Information

VIP  200, VIP 400 or VIP 500
Full semester course. Choose to enroll in 1 or 2 credits.
Team meetings: 12:00 PM- 1:15 PM on Friday

Interested in joining this team?

For more information and to request a permission number to register contact Dr. Shelly Volsche at OR complete this interest form and someone will contact you. Check out this page for tips on contacting a professor.

To register:  search by Subject: Vertically Integrated Projects, read the project description to find the right section  of VIP 200, 400, or 500. Use permission number, here are instructions Add with a permission number