Brevard Zoo, Florida Tech Dedicate Dr. Mary Helen McCay Research Shed

The Dr. Mary Helen McCay Research Shed at Brevard Zoo was officially unveiled at a dedication ceremony Feb. 24.

The 10-foot-by-12-foot shed, with wood-colored paneling and a prominent sign above its door, is located at the Primate Cognition Center in the zoo, where nine spider monkeys roam the corridors and housing areas at and above ground level. The shed will serve as the working space for Darby Proctor and Catherine Talbot, faculty members from the School of Psychology whose research involves spider monkeys, as well as for storage.

“It has really become the center of our activities here at the zoo. It has turned into such a valuable resource for us,” Proctor told Florida Tech President T. Dwayne McCay and about two dozen other guests at the ceremony, including Florida Tech Trustee Elizabeth Swann and Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten. “I cannot thank you and Mary Helen enough for providing this for us. It has really made a world of difference in order to enable us to do the types of research we do here. Thank you so much for that contribution.”

The gift from Dr. Mary Helen McCay came about after Proctor discussed her research with the McCays and others at a president’s research briefing at the zoo in 2019. She told them there are only a handful of schools nationwide where undergraduates get the level of hands-on experience with animal behavior and cognition that is available at Florida Tech, and that a new faculty member would help ensure this program remains among the premier offerings available.

Talbot came aboard last year.

“I also told them I really need a place to store our stuff,” Proctor said. At the time, much of her equipment was stored in her garage, with Proctor hauling it back and forth to the zoo every day. 

President McCay said at the zoo event that he and Dr. McCay discussed Proctor’s request, and Dr. McCay quickly determined she wanted to help. The gift was provided, and the shed was built in 2020. The pandemic postponed the unveiling ceremony until now.

“We are proud of you both,” President McCay told Proctor and Talbot. “Keith is a great partner and friend. We are proud of what’s going on at the zoo. I have been to many zoos, in Beijing, in St. Louis, in San Diego, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a zoo that’s better than this zoo. That’s because of Keith Winsten.”

In his remarks, Winsten spoke of Proctor’s many contributions to the zoo and to the powerful union between the zoo and Florida Tech.

“This partnership has been terrific for the zoo,” he said. “We want to thank the McCays and what they have contributed here. All of you who support Florida Tech and helped make this happen, we are so grateful for your investment in us and what that’s brought to this institution.”

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