Our mission is to shed light on the cognitive and communicative abilities for various non-human species. We look to gain understanding on what mechanisms are involved in decision-making and the development of complex language in various animal species. The C3PO lab investigates a myriad of topics and animal species, such as:

Nonhuman Primates

Our lab has long worked with several species of nonhuman primates, such as bonobos, chimpanzees and orangutans. Our research has looked into their comprehension skills, discussing the influences of environmental factors on their ability to understand declarative signals. We have also studied the evolutionary brain development in several primate suing novel techniques. These remarkable animals have helped us to understand their flexibility of language, social behaviors and cognitive comprehension.


Lyn, H., Russell, J. L., & Hopkins, W. D. (2010). The impact of environment on the comprehension of declarative communication in apes. Psychological Science, 21(3), 360-365.

Lyn, H., Greenfield, P. M., Savage-Rumbaugh, S., Gillespie-Lynch, K., & Hopkins, W. D. (2011). Nonhuman primates do declare! A comparison of declarative symbol and gesture use in two children, two bonobos, and a chimpanzee. Language & communication, 31(1), 63-74.

Lyn, H., Pierre, P., Bennett, A. J., Fears, S., Woods, R., & Hopkins, W. D. (2011). Planum temporale grey matter asymmetries in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), vervet (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus), rhesus (Macaca mulatta) and bonnet (Macaca radiata) monkeys. Neuropsychologia, 49(7), 2004-2012. 

Gillespie-Lynch, K., Greenfield, P. M., Lyn, H., & Savage-Rumbaugh, S. (2014). Gestural and symbolic development among apes and humans: support for a multimodal theory of language evolution. Frontiers in Psychology. 5:1228. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01228

Marine mammals

Delphinids are highly social animals and demonstrate a complex communication system. Our lab has investigated the dynamics of dolphin vocal behaviors, including use of signature whistles in varying contexts. Our lab seeks to continue our work with delphinids to potentially formulate a two-way communication system between dolphin and human, as well as explore positive behavioral correlates.

Additionally, we have investigated olfactory enrichment in California sea lions and feeding enrichment in Pacific walruses.

McBride-Kebert, S., Taylor, J. S., Lyn, H., Moore, F. R., Sacco, D. F., Kar, B., and Kuzcaj, S. A. (in press) How Can Spatial Bias Affect Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Habitat Use Results: Comparing Standardized Photographic-identification Surveys to Opportunistic Surveys. Aquatic Mammals.

Samuelson, M., Lauderdale, L., Pulis, K., Solangi, M., Hoffland, T., and Lyn, H. (2016) Olfactory enrichment in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus): An effective tool for captive welfare? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

Franks, B., Lyn, H., Klein, L. & Reiss, D. L. (2009) The influence of feeding enrichment, and seasonal context on the behavior of Pacific Walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens). Zoo Biology, 28,1-8.

Lyn, H., Jett, S., Broadway, M. (2018). Greeting and Meeting: Vocal interactions and use of signature whistles in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus) during an introduction. In Cuskley, C., Little H., et al. (Eds) The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference (EVOLANG12) Torun, Poland 16-19 April 2018.


Our wonderful canine friends bring more than just companionship to the C3PO lab. Here, they enlighten us on just how smart they are. Investigating their cognitive abilities, we look at ability to follow varying pointing tasks. Additionally, we assess cognitive abilities across breeds, age classes, and rearing techniques or exposure to human behaviors.

Broadway, M. S., Samuelson, M. M., Christopher, J. L., Jett, S. E., & Lyn, H. (2017). Does size really matter? Investigating cognitive differences in spatial memory ability based on size in domestic dogs. Behavioural processes, 138, 7-14.

Lyn, H., Jett, S. E., and Veliz-Aguilar, M. (April, 2017). Quantity Judgments in Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Paper presented at the Comparative Cognition Conference, Melbourne, FL.

marine hermit crabs

Currently, the C3PO lab is investigating the behavioral repertoire of marine hermit crabs and potential influences of environmental parameters. Our research has the potential suggest marine hermit crabs could serve as indicators of global climate change based on behavioral shifts.

If you are interested in our research and would like to discuss previous or current studies, please reach out to us! We love to share our work and hear from interested parties.

For additional insight into publications and various work disseminated through Dr. Heidi Lyn and the C3PO lab, click here.