The Kay E. Holekamp Lab has its headquarters on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. The lab has a second field office on the other side of the world, in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Professor Kay Holekamp and her students spend several months each year in Kenya. When they are back in East Lansing, MSU graduate students continue to operate the Masai Mara lab and send the data back to MSU for processing.
MSU students in the Holekamp Lab are involved in all aspects of field work in Africa which allows them to take advantage of many unique opportunities. Students in the Holekamp Lab receive first-hand experience in gathering the fundamental research in the field as well as working with the data and applying them to answer fundamental research questions in the areas of disease ecology, evolution, behavior and conservation.
Some of the larger questions the Holekamp Lab investigates include:
The long-term benefits of this research are many. In addition to enhancing our understanding of the basic biology of a fascinating large carnivore, the work also contributes significantly to our ability to maintain ecosystem health in one of the world's richest biodiversity hotspots. This research also offers unique and highly valuable training opportunities for MSU students in an international environment, helps to train Kenyan graduate students, and supports Masai students in rural elementary schools.
MSU zoology professor Kay Holekamp heads the research lab studying animal behavior and physiology with the lab's primary focus on the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta).
Holekamp and her students have been studying spotted hyenas for more than twenty years as part of various projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Holekamp Lab has published dozens of research papers on topics involving spotted hyenas as well as ground squirrels and other rodents. The research covers many different areas including behavior, physiology, population trends, genetics, competition, and conservation.
Since joining the faculty of Michigan State University in 1991, Holekamp has continued to expand her lab while receiving honors for her teaching and research. The high honors she has received include a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Mammologists. Holekamp is considered one of the world's leading experts on spotted hyenas and her work has been featured on the National Geographic Channel, BBC, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and in the New York Times.
A dozen MSU students work throughout the entire year in the Holekamp Lab. Although the majority of these students are advanced degree students in the MSU Department of Zoology, Holekamp also includes a select number of undergraduate students. More than one hundred students have trained in her lab and assisted with research during the past two decades.