Brenda McCowan

BrendaPhotoCurrent2I am Professor of Ethology with the Department of Population Health and Reproduction at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Core Scientist with the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis.  My research interests lie in the fields of behavioral biology and ecology with an emphasis on both the basic and applied aspects of animal behavior and communication for enhancing human and nonhuman animal health and well-being. I have conducted quantitative systems science research on complex systems at the human-animal interface for over 25 years, including complexity in nonhuman cognitive and communication systems, anthropogenic disruption of wildlife systems, robustness of animal social networks, and network epidemiology. I am the current and founding director of International Institute for Human-Animal Networks (IIHAN) which engages a multidisciplinary team of investigators to understand the socio-ecological processes underlying robustness in human-animal network systems. Our laboratory’s current work focuses on the effects of reciprocal and emergent interactions among components of complex social systems comprised of multi-level and multi-faceted networks on individual and population health dynamics in captive and free-ranging macaque populations.


  1. Balasubramaniam K, Beisner B, Guan J, Vandeleest J, Fushing H, Atwill E, McCowan B. (2018). Social network community structure and the contact-mediated sharing of commensal E. coli among captive rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) PeerJ,
  2. Kaburu S, Beisner B, Balasubramaniam K, Marty P, Bliss-Moreau E, McCowan B (2018). Rates of human-macaque interactions affect grooming behavior among urban-dwelling rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). American Journal of Physical Anthropology,
  3. Vandeleest JJ, Capitanio JP, Hamel A, Meyer J, Novak M, Mendoza SP, McCowan B. (2018), Social stability influences the association between adrenal responsiveness and hair cortisol concentrations in rhesus macaques, Psychoneuroendocrinology,
  4. Balasubramaniam KN, Beisner BA, Berman CM, De Marco A, Duboscq J, Koirala S, Majolo B, MacIntosh AJ, McFarland R, Molesti S, Ogawa H, Petit O, Schino G, Sosa S, Sueur C, Thierry B, de Waal FBM, McCowan B (2018). The influence of phylogeny, social style, and sociodemographic factors on variation in macaque social networks. American Journal of Primatology,
  5. Cassidy L, Hannibal D, Vandeleest J, Semple S, Barnard A, Chun K, Winkler S, McCowan B (2018). Intermittent pair-housing and pair relationship qualities modulate HPA activity in adult female rhesus macaques. Applied Animal Behaviour Science,
  6. Fushing H, Liu S, McCowan B (2018). From patterned response dependency to structured covariate dependency: categorical-pattern-matching. PLoS One,
  7. Gottlieb DL, Capitanio JP, McCowan B (2018). Personality, environmental stressors, and diarrhea in rhesus macaques: an interactionist perspective. American Journal of Primatology,
  8. Hannibal DL, Bliss-Moreau E, Vandeleest J, McCowan B, Capitanio J. (2017). Laboratory rhesus macaque social housing and social changes: Implications for research. American Journal of Primatology.
  9. Capitanio JP, Blozis SA, Snarr J, Steward A, McCowan B. (2017). Do “birds of a feather flock together” or do “opposites attract”? Behavioral responses and temperament predict success in pairings of rhesus monkeys in a laboratory setting. American Journal of Primatology,
  10. Seil SK, Hannibal DL, Beisner BA, McCowan B. (2017). Predictors of insubordinate aggression among captive female rhesus macaques. American Journal of Physical Anthropology,
  11. McCowan B, Beisner BA, Hannibal DL. (2017). Social management of laboratory rhesus macaques housed in large groups using a network approach: a review. Behavioral Processes,
  12. Vandeleest JJ, Beisner BA, Hannibal DL, Nathman AC, Capitanio JP, Hsieh F, Atwill ER, McCowan B. (2016) Decoupling social status and status certainty effects on health in macaques: a network approach. PeerJ,
  13. Balsubramaniam K, Beisner BA, Vandeleest J, Atwill ER, McCowan B. (2016). Social buffering and contact transmission: network connections have beneficial and detrimental effects on Shigella infection risk among captive rhesus macaques. PeerJ,
  14. McCowan, B., Beisner, B., Bliss-Moreau, E., Vandeleest, J., Jin, J., Hannibal, D., Hsieh, F. (2016). Connections matter: social networks and lifespan health in primate translational models. Front. Psychol.,
  15. Beisner BA, Hannibal DL, Finn KR, Fushing H, McCowan B. (2016). Social power, conflict policing, and the role of subordination signals in rhesus macaque society. Am J Phys Anthropol,
  16. Beisner B, Jin J, Fushing H, McCowan B. (2015). Detection of social group instability among captive rhesus macaques using joint network modeling. Current Zoology 61, 70–84.
  17. Beisner BA, Heagerty A, Seil SK, Balasubramaniam KN, Atwill ER, Gupta BK, Tyagi PC, Chauhan NP, Bonal BS, Sinha PR, McCowan B. (2014). Human-wildlife conflict: Proximate predictors of aggression between humans and rhesus macaques in India. Am J Phys. Anthro,
  18. VanderWaal, K., Atwill, R. A., Isbell, L. and McCowan, B. (2014). Quantifying pathogen transmission networks for wild and domestic ungulates in Kenya. Biological Conservation,
  19. Fushing, H., Jordan, O., Beisner, B., McCowan, B. (2014). Computing systemic risk using multiple behavioral and keystone networks: The emergence of a crisis in primate societies and banks. International Journal of Forecasting,
  20. Beisner B, McCowan B. (2013). Policing in nonhuman primates: partial interventions serve a prosocial conflict management function in rhesus macaques. PLoS One,
  21. VanderWaal K, Wang H, McCowan B, Hsieh F, Isbell L. (2013). Multilevel social organization and space use in reticulated giraffe (Girala camelopardalis). Behavioral Ecology,
  22. VanderWaal K, Atwill, RA, Isbell L, McCowan B. (2013). Linking social and pathogen transmission networks using microbial genetics in giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis). Journal of Animal Ecology,
  23. McCowan B, Beisner B, Capitanio J, Jackson M, Cameron A, Seil S, Atwill ER, Fushing H. (2011). Network stability is a balancing act of personality, power, and conflict dynamics in rhesus macaque societies. PLoS One,