Members of our group work collaboratively on a number of interdisciplinary research projects with multiple stakeholders (government, industry, community groups, and other scientists) locally and internationally. The research we conduct falls into three broad areas:
Responsible Interactions with Wildlife
People seek ‘close encounters’ with wild animals, whether in natural habitats (e.g. visiting mountain gorillas in Rwanda or swimming with orcas in Norway) or zoos and aquaria. Without proper evaluation, we do not really know the impact of these intimate encounters. Do they change the participants’ knowledge, their attitudes towards conservation or facilitate behaviour change? Also how does the encounter impact on the behaviour and welfare of the animals involved in the encounter?
Study species: Primates (particularly great apes); felids (exotic & domestic); pinnipeds; dingoes; sharks.
Evaluation of Community Conservation and Citizen Science Projects
Several members of our group are part of the ‘Discovery Circle’ Citizen Science group, based at the University of South Australia, running and evaluating projects that provide opportunities for the public to contribute to scientific research, and help us understand how people feel about and interact with local wildlife (e.g. ‘Cat Tracker’ and ‘Flukerpost’ projects; http://www.discoverycircle.org.au/about-us/).
Members of our group work closely with Rachel Lowry (Director) and her Wildlife Conservation and Science team at ‘Zoos Victoria’ to evaluate community conservation and visitor engagement projects (e.g. ‘seal-the-loop’ marine wildlife entanglement; ‘don’t palm us off’ palm oil labelling; ‘they’re calling on you’ mobile phone recycling; ‘love your locals’ raising profile of 20 Victorian terrestrial species).
Applied Animal Behaviour, Cognition and Welfare
As ambassadors for their wild counterparts, animals that are housed in optimal zoo or sanctuary environments have the potential to inspire, affect, educate and reconnect human visitors to nature. More recently, members of our group have investigated personality in animals (great apes and felids) and considered how personality assessment can be used to improved welfare and management of pet cats and animals in zoos.
Study species: primates (orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, siamangs), pinnipeds (Australian sea-lions, Californian sea-lions, New Zealand fur seals, leopard seals), felids (caracals, servals, cheetahs, lions, tigers, leopards), giant tortoises, giant pandas, canids (African painted dogs, dingoes) common hippopotamus, parrots (long-billed corellas, galahs).