Brenda McCowan

BrendaI am Professor of Behavioral Epidemiology 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. 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. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00433.
  2. Beisner, B. A., Hannibal, D. L., Finn, K. R., Fushing, H., and McCowan, B. (2016). Social power, conflict policing, and the role of subordination signals in rhesus macaque society. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2016 Jan 23. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22945.
  3. Beisner, B. Jin, J., Fushing, H. and McCowan, B. (2015). Detection of social group instability among captive rhesus macaques using joint network modeling. Current Zoology 61, 70–84.
  4. 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. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22649.
  5. VanderWaal, K., Atwill, R. A., Isbell, L. and McCowan, B. (2014). Quantifying pathogen transmission networks for wild and domestic ungulates in Kenya. Biological Conservation 169, 136–146.
  6. 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.
  7. Beisner, B. and McCowan, B. (2013). Policing in nonhuman primates: partial interventions serve a prosocial conflict management function in rhesus macaques. PLoS ONE 8(10): e77369. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077369.
  8. VanderWaal, K., Wang, H. , McCowan, B., Hsieh, F. and Isbell, L. (2013). Multilevel social organization and space use in reticulated giraffe (Girala camelopardalis). Behavioral Ecology (2013), 00(00), 1–10. doi:10.1093/beheco/art061.
  9. VanderWaal, K., Atwill, R. A., Isbell, L. and McCowan, B. (2013). Linking social and pathogen transmission networks using microbial genetics in giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis). Journal of Animal Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12137.
  10. McCowan, B., Beisner, B., Capitanio, J., Jackson, M., Cameron, A., Seil, S., Atwill, E. R., and Fushing, H. (2011). Network stability is a balancing act of personality, power, and conflict dynamics in rhesus macaque societies. PLoS ONE 6(8): e22350. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022350.