His present research—much of it done in collaboration with his wife and U of A colleague Netzin Steklis—concerns the history and biopsychology of human-animal relationships; the effectiveness of horse or dog therapy for improving human wellness; mountain gorilla personality and life history, the function of rough and tumble play in mountain gorillas, and the evolution of the capacity for emotional awareness in humans and other animals. Along with Netzin Steklis, I co-direct ACBS’ Human-Animal Interaction Research Initiative (HAIRI), and co-lead a summer Primate Studies Field School (administered by the U of A Office of Study Abroad) in Rwanda, Africa.
Dieter Steklis earned his Ph.D. in Primatology and Biological Anthropology in 1974 from the University of California, Berkeley. That year, he joined Rutgers University as an Assistant Professor, retiring in 2004 as Professor Emeritus of Primatology. From 2005-2016, he taught at the University of Arizona South, primarily in Psychology, and served in several administrative leadership positions (Associate Dean, Division Chair) before moving to his present position in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences.
In addition to his academic career, Steklis has held several leadership positions in the private not-for-profit sector, including serving in science and conservation leadership positions with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (link is external). His relationship with the Fossey Fund began in 1991, when he was appointed director of the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda (1991-1993). Subsequently, he served as the fund’s Executive Director (1993-1995), and as Chief Scientist and Vice-President (1995-2005). His many years of collaborative research with his wife on mountain gorilla behavior and conservation has been featured in scholarly journals and books, national and international magazines, radio programs, and numerous television broadcasts (including National Geographic). In recognition of their collaborative conservation work, in 2002, he and his wife received the Explorers Club “Champions of Wildlife Award”.
Dr. Dieter Steklis co-developed and teaches courses with his wife and colleague, Dr. Netzin 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)