Squirrels: They're Just Like Us!
April 20, 2018
Today I would like to address the disturbing implications of the latest squirrel research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley.
It involved a psychology Ph.D. candidate and her undergraduate assistants who armed themselves with nuts, stopwatches, cameras and GPS trackers to surveil the campus squirrels.
Scientifically speaking, the research team sought to peer inside the squirrels' furry little heads as they pondered the existential question of their time: Do I eat this nut now, or do I save it for later?
Upon finding a nut, it turns out, most squirrels tend to rotate it between their front paws, like how a pitcher rubs up a baseball before pitching it.
An ordinary squirrel psychologist might think this is just an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Either that, or a desperate attempt to get drafted by the Oakland A's as team Rally Squirrel.
But this was no ordinary squirrel psychologist. She determined these animals were evaluating each nut's freshness and nutritional value, while also considering what other food might be available and if the neighboring squirrels were going to ask for a bite. Because – I'm assuming here – then they might want to spit on it quick.
In other words, squirrels are just like you and I when we stand in front of the open refrigerator every night, only more discerning.
This, incidentally, scientifically explains why you hardly ever see an obese squirrel.
But that was not the research finding this researcher was seeking. No, she was more interested in squirrel nut-hoarding strategies.
That's why her team offered the squirrels four types of tree nuts and then examined where and how they stored them.
What did the researchers discover? Basically, squirrels use a strategy known as chunking, where they sort and store similar kinds of nuts together – like the way humans intend to place all their cookie ingredients on the same pantry shelf. Except that the squirrels can FIND their almonds, whereas we humans must keep buying new bags because the old ones are hidden behind the spaghetti.
But that's not even the most disturbing thing about this research. The most disturbing thing is how it represents a clear invasion of squirrel privacy.
Think about it. These squirrels' parents have paid good, hard-earned nuts to send their offspring to a top-ranked school, only to have university-sanctioned people spying on them. I mean, a mother squirrel can't even find out her child squirrel's grades, but strangers can videotape where they hide their hazelnuts?
I also know what you college students currently majoring in Undecided are wondering. You're wondering what kind of employment opportunities are available to persons who study squirrel behavior. I don't know. But I would suggest you diversify.
At least that is what this Ph.D. student did. According to her biography, she also works with pigeons and zebrafish.