Advocate for elephants on a large scale

Brian Greco with colleagues

Brian Greco

Ph.D. candidate

BS ’03 Biology, BA ’03 Art

Program: Animal Biology

Impact: Better lives for zoo elephants throughout North America

You might think of UC Davis graduate student Brian Greco as a zoo elephant psychologist. After all, he is tackling behavioral problems related to neurological dysfunction, depression, frustration and distress in captive elephants. 

Greco has an ambitious goal: to reduce these issues by helping North American zoos develop and use practices to improve elephant welfare.

Greco’s research into animal welfare will also help the elephants he formerly cared for at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where he worked for seven years as an elephant trainer.

He chose to return to his alma mater three years ago for one reason: “UC Davis has one of the most well rounded and diverse teams of animal researchers in North America. 

Although they investigate different aspects of animal biology and behavior, the faculty members have individually contributed many unique insights to Greco’s education, he says.

In addition, UC Davis shaped Greco as an undergraduate when he was involved in art, biological sciences and the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh. He points to mentors in the art department, Conrad Atkinson and Karyl Ketchum, “for helping me realize the value of an artistic perspective in science.”

And now, a decade later, Greco says his current mentors, Joy Mench and Cheryl Meehan, are helping him mature as an animal welfare scientist — and as the one who, some day, will make the captive experience more comfortable for elephants.