Jesse Purdy

Professor of Psychology

Dr. Jesse E. Purdy received his B. S. in psychology in 1974, his M. S. in general-experimental psychology in 1976 and his PhD in 1978 from Colorado State University. He graduated with an emphasis in comparative psychology. His areas of specialization include animal learning and animal behavior. He has been at Southwestern University since 1978.

Dr. Purdy has been active in several professional organizations including the Southwestern Comparative Psychology Association (SCPA), the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA), and Psi Chi the International Honor Society in Psychology. He has twice served on the board of directors for SCPA. During the academic years 1997-98, 1998-99, and 1999-2000 he served as President-elect, President, and Past-President of SWPA. He coordinated the SWPA convention program in 1999 and presented the 1999 Presidential Address. In 1994-95 he was elected Southwestern Regional Vice-President of Psi Chi and served on the National Council for two consecutive terms until Spring, 1998. The following year, 1999-2000 he was elected President-elect of Psi Chi and served an additional three years on the National Council of Psi Chi where he and the other Council members redefined Psi Chi from primarily a student honor society to an honor society that provided numerous opportunities for Psi Chi members to realize the purpose and mission of Psi Chi by supporting research and scholarship through grants, leadership programs, and awards.


BS, MS, PhD, Colorado State University

Teaching Philosophy

Previous Courses

Animal Behavior, Exotic Sensory Systems, Introduction to Animal Behavior, Psychology of Learning, Physiological Psychology, Research Methods I, Research Methods II, Research in Comparative Psychology


Dr. Purdy has an active research program that involves undergraduate students extensively. With his students he has authored and co-authored over 30 articles and made over 40 professional presentations. His work is primarily carried out at the Southwestern University's Aquatic Animal Research Laboratory that houses facilities for both fresh water and salt water organisms. He has spent summers at the University of Hawaii (Bekesy Laboratory for Neurobiology), National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle, Washington, University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, TX, the National Resource Center for Cephalopods in Galveston, TX, the Bamfield Marine Station on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, and in 2009 he spent four months working at the National Centre for Marine Science in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia in conjunction with Sourthern Cross University..

The focus of his work is on basic animal learning processes in aquatic animals where he continues to explore the mechanisms of learning involved in sign tracking in goldfish and cuttlefish. He is also interested in questions relating to optimal foraging in aquatic animals, conditioned defensive behaviors in aquatic animals, and predator-prey interactions. In 1996, his work with cuttlefish was highlighted on the Discovery Channel's World of Wonder and in 2007 he appeared on the award winning documentary Kings of Camouflage . Dr. Purdy is often asked to speak to groups about his work with cuttlefish, Weddell seals, and whales. In the late 1990's he was involved in a project examining anti-predator responses by salmon to sights and sounds of killer whales. To obtain the sounds of killer whales he traveled to Telegraph Cove, Vancouver Island, British Columbia where from a 15-foot inflatable raft he observed and recorded sounds from the northern resident pod of Orcinus orca.These sounds were played back to juvenile salmon in the laboratory at the Bamfield Marine Science Institute and in the field off the coast of Northern Vancouver Island. In 2001 and 2002, Dr. Purdy was asked to join a group of scientists from Texas A & M University at Galveston, University of Texas Marine Science Institute, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. This group was studying the diving for foraging energetics of Weddell Seals as they lived underneath the fast ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Dr. Purdy was asked to help the team understand the social and reproductive behavior of these mammals, which are the only mammal on the planet able to live year-around in one of the most dificult environments on the planet. For ten consecutive weeks in 2001 and in 2002 he lived in a remote ice camp 15 km from McMurdo, the largest of three US stations on the continent. This work has led to numerous presentations and publications and a documentary that he produced along with Dr. Randall Davis from TAMU Galveston. This documentary, entitled the World of Weddell Seals" won the Jack B. Ward non-commercial film competiton sponsored by the Animal Behavior Society of America in 2009..

Honors & Awards

Brown Distinguished Research Professor (1999-2003)

Mundy Award, Fall, 2004

John H. Duncan Chair, (2004--2009)

Coordinated Brown Symposium XXX, April, 2008, Titled "Umwelt: Exploring the Self-worlds of Human and Non-human Animals