Karen Pryor

From earlychildhood Karen Pryor was both a writer and a budding scientist. With a Cornelleducation and graduate studies in marine biology at the University of Hawaiiand in zoology at New York University and Rutgers, she is the author of 20articles and book chapters in the scientific literature, an edited volume onopen-ocean dolphin studies, and 10 books for the general public.

In 1963 shebecame head trainer at a new facility, Sea Life Park and the Oceanic Institutein Hawaii. Combining the work of Konrad Lorenz and the behavioral principles ofB.F. Skinner, she pioneered in the development of modern, marker-based animaltraining. After leaving Sea Life Park, Pryor published Lads Before the Wind—anaccount of her early days as a dolphin trainer. She wasn’t done with dolphins,though. Moving to New York City, she became scientific advisor to the tunafishing industry. She also served as principal investigator on a National MarineFisheries Service study of the behavior of dolphins in tuna nets. This researchled to a joint project with marine mammalogist Kenneth S. Norris, PhD,contributing to and co-editing a textbook on studies of dolphin socialorganization. In 1984, President Reagan appointed her to a three-year term asFederal Commissioner on the Marine Mammal Commission, overseeing research andmanagement of all marine mammals in U.S. waters.

In 1984, Pryorpublished Don’t Shoot the Dog! explaining the uses of positive reinforcementand marker-based training for human beings as well as animals. Now translatedinto 17 languages, the book has become a standard college text on reinforcementand a popular text for trainers of dogs and of zoo animals. Reaching the AnimalMind, published in 2009, is a follow-up.Public demand for additional teachingmaterials led to Pryor’s formation in 1992 of a publishing and video productioncompany, Sunshine Books (later renamed Karen Pryor Clicker Training, or KPCT).Pryor retired from the company in 2014 to devote more time to pursuing herscientific interests and to family.

Appearances