Professor creates cartoon character to encourage kids' safety during pandemic

September 7, 2020

University News

Psychology professor Kelly Lambert, a behavioral neuroscientist, is well-known around campus for her important work with rats. Lambert led the team that taught rats to drive. That work led to international news coverage.

Lambert has also spent time studying a different mammal — the raccoon. Given her knowledge of the highly intelligent creatures, she decided to use them as inspiration to encourage healthy COVID behaviors in kids.

“I got to thinking about how successful media campaigns can be used to modify behavior, and one of the most famous examples is the humanized forest animal, Smokey Bear,” Lambert said. “If this character could inspire fire safety, could there be a similar hero to keep schoolkids safe from COVID-19?”

Collaborating with research colleagues and an illustrator, Kalo was born.

“I created an intentional hero — a raccoon named Kalo after the Greek term for health — as an evidence-based fictional hero to lead the way on healthy behaviors to diminish the spread of the virus until a vaccine is available,” Lambert said.

“Kalo encourages the behaviors we should all follow — wearing masks, physical distancing, and washing our hands frequently, but in an approachable and fun way I hope will resonate with kids,” Lambert added.  

Kalo has been featured in Scientific American and stole some of the spotlight at a recent virtual talk Lambert gave at the Science Museum of Virginia. She also discussed Kalo in an interview with fellow scientist Temple Grandin, a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. 

Lambert hopes to further partner with school systems to roll out Kalo and his healthy behaviors to children across the region and country.

You can learn more about Kalo on KalotheHero.com and this Facebook page.