Quick Contact

Lauren Highfill
Associate Professor of Psychology

Eckerd College
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711

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local: (727) 864-7562
toll-free: (800) 456-9009



Staff & Student Bios

Lauren Highfill

Lauren HighfillAssociate Professor
CEC 235 (727) 864-8428


  • Ph.D., Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi, 2008
    Doctoral Dissertation: "The Use of Personality Assessments in Designing Environmental Enrichment for Small-eared Bushbabies (Otolemur garnettii)"
  • M.A., Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi, 2006
    Master's Thesis: "Judging Personality Traits in the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)"
  • B.A., Psychology, Meredith College, 2002

As a comparative psychologist, I believe it is very important to intersect many areas of psychology within my research. Therefore, some of my current research interests include animal personality, animal cognition, and environmental enrichment. I am also very enthusiastic about involving students in my research program. As an undergraduate, I was always encouraged to perform research and am confident that this encouragement was vital in shaping my career.

Current student researchers

Tia Hildebrandt - Lab Manager and Researcher

Tia HildebrandtTia, a sophomore, is double majoring in Psychology and Anthropology while minoring in Biology. She currently volunteers at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida aiding with ape care, enrichment, and meal preparation. Tia has spent two summers assisting the KidScience program at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Over the summer of 2014, she interned at the Primate Rescue Center in Wilmore, Kentucky where she completed husbandry activities as well as her own research regarding gender preferences of toys. Tia has been involved with both lemur and elephant research while a participant of the Comparative Psychology Lab Club. She aspires to one day become a primatologist and travel to Africa to rescue chimpanzees from unfortunate circumstances.

Cassi Lyon - Lead Researcher

Cassi LyonCassi, a senior, is a Psychology and International Relations double major and a Chinese minor. She has served as a student observer for the gorillas at Busch Gardens, Tampa. Through this experience she learned how to create and fill out behavioral ethograms concerning the eating behaviors of two of the park’s gorillas. She has also volunteered at the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART) for the past three years, where she not only gets to work to work with wonderful horses, but also amazing children and adults with physical or mental disabilities. She hopes to pursue a career that furthers the rights of animals globally and makes their welfare and conservation a more oft-discussed issue.

Emilie Haridopolos - Lead Researcher

Emilie HaridopolosEmilie, a senior, is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development and Leadership Studies. Emilie is currently conducting a study on dog cognition. Specifically, Emilie is investigating whether dogs prefer people who display helpful behavior over unhelpful behavior. Emilie would eventually like to establish herself as a Comparative Psychologist. She hopes to work with Elephants and study their behavior for education and conservation purposes.
Information about Eckerd College dog projects.

Hunter Leggett - Research Assistant

Hunter LeggettHunter, a junior, is majoring in psychology and minoring in biology. Since he was 3 years old, it has been his dream to be a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld. Prior to Eckerd, he was a camper with SeaWorld’s resident camps for 8 consecutive years learning everything he could about the marine mammal training industry. Since arriving to Eckerd, he has been interning at the South Florida Museum with Snooty the manatee.

Past student researchers

Christine Dumbleton

Christine Dumbleton Christine graduated with a double major in Psychology and Environmental Studies. While at Eckerd she participated in the student observer program at Busch Gardens and was the lead student researcher for several dog cognition projects. Christine was able to present her data at the International Conference on Comparative Cognition.

Sarah Nadler

Sara NadlerDuring Sarah's four years at Eckerd, she volunteered at several animal care facilities including the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary and Southeast Guide Dogs Inc. Currently, she is a manatee specialist at the South Florida Museum's Parker Aquarium where she cares for and trains "Snooty" the manatee. Sarah assisted Professor Highfill on cognitive studies with a variety of animals including: dogs, sea lions, and lemurs. She is currently applying to graduate school and plans to pursue her goal of animal-assisted therapy.

Patrick Reed

Patrick ReedDuring his time at Eckerd, Patrick was a student observer of elephants at Busch Gardens Tampa and a marine mammal intern at Gulf World Marine Park, Panama City Beach, FL. In his final year of college, Patrick interned at Discovery Cove in Orlando. He would commute between St. Petersburg and Orlando every week! His dedication paid off and he was ultimately hired as a marine mammal trainer at Discovery Cove.

Brooke Alexander

Brooke AlexanderBrooke graduated with a Biology major and Psychology minor. While at Eckerd she was the lead student researcher for a project at the Lemur Conservation Foundation's Myakka City. Brooke was able to present her data at the International Conference on Comparative Cognition.

B.A. or B.S.

Students majoring in psychology have the option of completing a Bachelor of Arts or Science. The B.A. program is intended for students who want a strong background in psychology as preparation for careers in such areas as law, public health, and medicine. The B.S. program is intended for students who plan to go on to graduate school in some area of psychology.

The Eckerd Difference

<strong>Rachel Feinberg</strong>---Atlanta, GA---Psychology

"Eckerd met every one of my expectations and more. Here I can be driven, focused, and able to explore any area I please thanks to the dedication of teachers, faculty, and friends. At the same time, I am able to take advantage of Eckerd's beautiful environment, calming atmosphere, and fun activities to make my education experience an enjoyable one." - Rachel Feinberg, Psychology major