Dakota McCoy ’13: Chasing the secrets of animal intelligence

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Dakota E. McCoy is one of Yale’s top all-time performers in the javelin and 400-meter hurdle events, but she will spend her tenure at Oxford chasing secrets of animal intelligence. She hopes to use those insights to create better environmental and land use policies.

Two summers ago, the Wexford Pa. native spent the summer in Puerto Rico studying behavior of monkeys with Yale psychologist of Laurie Santos. The experience led to a fascination with animal intelligence, most recently with how birds manage to create and use tools.

“If we can understand how animals use intelligence in things like foraging, mate choice, migration, we can better learn how to manage our land,” the Yale senior said.

McCoy is a Goldwater Scholar, a member of Phi Bet Kappa, and won the Frances Gordon Brown prize for intellectual distinction, leadership and service. She sings a cappella and works and volunteers at the Peabody Museum doing scientific outreach.

She says those honors were direct result life lessons of dedication and time management imparted by her track coach, David Shoehalter and her advisor Leo Buss.

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