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As opposition to pesticides increases, the agricultural community has shown interest in using animals to control the spread of invasive weed species. Operant conditioning, which can be defined as changing behavior by changing its consequences (Skinner, 1951) may present a solution. Operant conditioning strategies may be used to teach animals to perform a desired behavior, including but not limited to consumption of an invasive species. This study used operant conditioning of consumption of an invasive species to train a goat for successful behavioral training in consuming invasive species. During the experimental condition, subjects were positively reinforced, which is a procedure whereby when an animal performs a desired behavior the trainer presents a positive reinforcer immediately after it, which increases the probability that the animal will perform that behavior again (Cooper et al., 2020). During the experimental condition, subjects were reinforced with a highly preferred food item each time the target invasive species was consumed. During the control condition, no operant conditioning was used, and subjects consumed vegetation at their discretion. Comparison of results from control and experimental conditions over nine days showed that subjects who were reinforced consumed more invasive species than subjects who were not reinforced.
Dr. Marcie Desrochers
French, Molly; Desrochers, Dr. Marcie N.; Forzano, Dr. Lori-Ann; and Amatangelo, Dr. Kathryn L., "Experimental Evaluation of Use of Operant Conditioning to Increase Consumption of Multiflora Rose by a Goat" (2020). Posters@Research Events. 41.