Dr. Netzin Steklis is originally from west Texas where she grew-up as a “wild-child” around a variety of animals, in a Mexican-American household where she experienced a bi-cultural education in El Paso and Juarez. Her higher education reflects her multidisciplinary interests in human and non-human animal behavior: She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Biology from the University of Chicago, an M.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. in Ethology & Evolutionary Psychology from University of Arizona.
Dr. Netzin Steklis has studied a variety of nonhuman primates in captive and wild settings, in particular the ecology, social behavior and conservation of wild mountain gorillas in Rwanda. For more than 10 years, she served as the Director of Scientific Information Resources for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, a non-profit organization dedicated to gorilla research and conservation in Africa
More recently she has expanded her research and academic focus to include the biopsychology of human-animal interrelationships. This includes understanding the diversity of roles and contributions of all nonhuman animals in human health and human society, past and present. In particular, she seeks to understand from an evolutionary standpoint the varied attitudes people of diverse cultures have toward particular kinds of animals and how these help explain, for example, the most effective approach for conservation or animal education, the potential therapeutic utility of some animals, the impact of stockmanship on agricultural animal production, or the individual differences in animal attitudes (what she calls “Animality”) as an important consideration for animal-allied career choices.
This growing interest in the field of Human-Animal Interaction (HAI), and the realization of a need for well-controlled research studies, also led to the co-founding and co-directing in 2014 of the Human-Animal Interaction Research Initiative (HAIRI) at the University of Arizona. HAIRI was recognized in 2016 as one of a handful of HAI centers in the US, by way of being invited by the Center for the Human-Animal Bond (Purdue University) to participate in a national conference. HAIRI aims to train students to evaluate reported finding in HAI by engaging them in all stages of research on HAI projects, such as testing the efficacy of a service dogs program for reducing stress in ICU hospital nurses on the job, or evaluating the potential microbiotic benefits of pairing dogs with the elderly.
Dr. Netzin Steklis frequently participates in workshops/committees related to education pedagogy, and even earned a UofA Graduate Certificate in College Teaching, reflecting her abiding commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching. She co-developed and teaches courses with her husband and colleague, Dr. H. Dieter Steklis, including:
- ACBS 160 Human & Animal Interrelationships (including co-authoring an HAI textbook “Human-Animal Interrelationships”, Kendall-Hunt Publishing)
- ACBS 469A/569A Ethology, Evolution, Ethics & Animal Handling
- ACBS 483/583 Principles of Applied Primate Behavior and Captive Management
- ACBS 484/584 Applied Captive Primate Behavior in Practice
- Primate Studied Field School in Rwanda (Summer Study Abroad)
Dr. Netzin Steklis shares her life and adventures with her husband and colleague Dr. Dieter Steklis, two adult sons/field assistants, and a variety of animals over her lifetime (dogs, horses, birds, rodents, reptiles).