Shelby E. McDonald, PhD

Shelby McDonald

Affiliate Faculty

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Affiliate Faculty, VCU Department of Psychology
Affiliate Faculty, VCU School of Social Work

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Dr. McDonald's twitter: @DrShelbyMcD


Shelby E. McDonald, PhD, is an interdisciplinary social science researcher who studies the role of human-animal interaction and human-animal bonds in health and welfare among underrepresented and underserved communities. She currently serves as Director of Community Research and Evaluation for the Denver Zoological Foundation, an organization that works to improve our planet for wild animals, wild places, and future generations. Dr. McDonald's research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and other competitive funding mechanisms. Her current research projects include topics such as reducing barriers to nature play for children, promoting conservation behaviors among individuals and communities, and increasing diversity and inclusion in zoological and anthrozoological sciences.  

Currently, Dr. McDonald is an affiliate faculty member at the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development. She is also an affiliate faculty member with the VCU Department of Psychology and School of Social Work, where she was previously employed as a tenured associate professor. Her past employment also includes the role of Director of Research at the ASPCA.

Dr. McDonald received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Virginia Tech in 2006, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Denver in 2011, and a doctoral degree in social work from the University of Denver in 2015.