Conservation Science Team

Dr. Gráinne McCabe, Head of Conservation Science (

Grainne is a biological anthropologist specialising in primate behaviour and ecology. Her research focuses on the reproductive ecology of wild monkeys in both Costa Rica and Tanzania using an integrative approach combining behavioural, ecological, nutritional, endocrinological and parasitological data to gain a better understanding of the factors impacting reproduction in threatened primates. Gráinne received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her Masters from the University of Calgary, Canada, in Primatology. Prior to joining the Bristol Zoological Society, she was a joint Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Drexel University (USA) and Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial in Equatorial Guinea, West Africa, where she focused on primate conservation and attempting to halt the bushmeat trade by lobbying the government, and managing micro-credit projects to promote alternative sources of income.

Although Gráinne is a primatologist, she supervises students working with a wide array of primate and non-primate taxa on a variety of topics including:

  • Behavioural ecology, including sociality, feeding, and nutrition 
  • Reproductive biology and ecology
  • Conservation threats
  • Population level studies examining dynamics, viability and demography.

Other topics are possible, feel free to email me to discuss your ideas.

Dr. Sue Dow, Lecturer in Conservation Science (

Sue trained as a Zoologist at the University of Oxford and carried out a PhD at the University of Exeter on foraging and learning in pigeons. She has worked for the University of Bristol, researching bird flight and then tendon injuries and humane treatments for horses and set up a pilot environmental enrichment programme at London Zoo.  She has worked at Bristol Zoological Society since 1992, originally combining working on building projects and co-ordinating research projects, but is now a Lecturer in the Conservation Science Department and supervises a range of research projects.

Main research interests and previous projects: behaviour and welfare of captive species across various taxa

  • Gorillas social dynamics – a longitudinal study of gorilla social dynamics at Bristol Zoo Gardens as changes in the group composition varies over time
  • Husbandry challenges in invertebrates
  • Effects of uv light on the behaviour of jewel beetles
  • Larval diet and development of horns in flower beetles
  • Effects of enclosure design on the behavioural repertoire of captive animals
  • Tank complexity and aggression in cichlids
  • Feeding predictability and aggression in catfish
  • Enrichment complexity for keas and for fur seals.

Dr. Amanda Webber, Lecturer in Conservation Science (

Amanda is an Anthropologist who lived and worked in The Gambia and Costa Rica before receiving her MSc (Primate Conservation) and PhD from Oxford Brookes University.  Her PhD research focussed on comparing the actual and perceived risk of crop damage by large vertebrates to farmers in Uganda.  After teaching at Oxford Brookes University and University of Bristol, Amanda joined the Bristol Zoological Society Conservation Science team in 2013. She has supervised student projects on subjects ranging from people’s perceptions of urban foxes and red kites to evaluation of co-adaptive management schemes and tourist ventures.

Main research interests:

  • Human-wildlife interactions and the development of effective co-existence strategies
  • People’s perceptions of wildlife particularly urban and/or pest species
  • Representation of wildlife in the media (newspapers, online etc.)
  • Visitor research in the zoo

I am open to other ideas so please get in touch!

Dr. Fay Clark, Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare (

Fay specialises in the assessment and enhancement of captive animal welfare, in traditional zoos, safari parks, sanctuaries and aquariums. She has worked with many UK and US zoos since 2002, on species ranging from bush babies and sloths to gorillas and sea lions. Fay’s PhD at the Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society of London) and Royal Veterinary College (2013) examined how the welfare of chimpanzees and bottlenose dolphins could be enhanced by providing them with cognitively challenging maze-puzzles. Fay has a special interest in the link between cognition and welfare, and how advanced statistical techniques can be used to improve the validity of zoo-based research.

Research topics on zoo animals:

  • Cognitive enrichment (i.e. cognitively stimulating challenges, with or without food rewards)
  • Welfare indicators 
  • Lateralisation of behaviour (i.e. relative use of the left and right sides of the body)
  • Measuring motivation and preference for resources.

Dr. Alison Cotton, Lecturer in Conservation Science (

Hailing from New Zealand, Alison did her degree in Auckland before spending a few years travelling in Central and South America as well as Indonesia, volunteering at rescue and rehabilitation centres and gaining insights into global conservation and wildlife issues. After returning to New Zealand she worked with the Department of Conservation, investigating the efficacy of the Kiwi Aversion Training that is done to deter dogs from killing kiwi. She moved to England to do her MSc at Oxford University where a love of evolutionary research was born. An MRes and PhD at UCL followed, examining the evolution of sexually selected traits in stalk-eyed flies. This involved behaviour and genetic experiments, both in the laboratory and in the rainforests of Malaysia.

Areas of Interest:

  • Social behaviour (previous work including kea, seahorses and multi species exhibits)
  • Welfare and Enrichment (previous work including iguanas, kea, serval and ocelot)
  • Sexual selection – how and why elaborate sexual traits evolve as well as what shapes mating preferences (stalk-eyed flies – potential work in seahorses)
  • Bio-indicators - the potential use of sexual traits to indicate environmental condition and evaluate the impact of altered habitats.

Dr. Tim Bray, Lecturer in Conservation Science (

Tim specialises in using molecular genetic approaches to answer questions in conservation, ecology, and the distribution of biological diversity. He has worked with a variety of ecological and evolutionary systems across several geographical regions. His work encompasses a wide range of spatial and temporal scales as well as considering the genetic data in the context of environmental variables. 
Subsequent to an MSc in Ecology (Bangor) his PhD project considered genetic introgression in a minority cattle breed (Cardiff). He has since continued to work largely with mammaIian populations in Africa and Arabia. As well as the more well-known groups, such as grey wolves and pipistrelle bats, his work has touched on the more obscure; including jirds, spiny mice, and the solitary Cape dune mole-rat. Most recently his work has been involved with characterising the incredible diversity of South-east Asian beetle communities, looking into species delimitation and phylogenomics.

Primary research areas:

  • Population genetics; diversity, demographic modelling
  • Phylogenetics 
  • Parentage and mating systems.

I am also very interested in doing some research with herptiles, but also open to any other suggestions.

Daphne Kerhoas, PhD Candidate, MSc, Lecturer in Conservation Science (

After pursuing a focus on Ethology throughout her Biology degree in France, Daphne studied in an Animal Behaviour programme in the USA, where she first experienced observing primates. Upon the completion of her Bachelor degree, she worked as a field scientist in Costa Rica, recording social behaviour in wild capuchins for a year. Following this experience, she went on to complete her Master degree on Animal Behaviour in Paris. The following year, she went to Nigeria for six months, recording vocalisations and social interactions in wild olive baboons, in collaboration with Roehampton University. Since January 2008, Daphne has been a PhD candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in collaboration with the German Primate Centre. She spent 2 years in the forest of Indonesia collecting behavioural data, vocalisation, and genetic samples of wild crested macaques.  The research focused on male-infant relationships, and involved data collection and playback experiments in the wild and laboratory analysis of the genetic samples to determine paternity. Throughout these experiences, Daphne has been directly involved in a variety of conservation issues and motivated conservation actions, including environmental education, patrolling against poachers and illegal loggers, and dialogs with government representatives. 

Main research interests:

  • Primate ecology and behaviour
  • Animal social interactions and how they are affected by their environment

Osiris Doumbé, MSc, MRes, Lecturer in Conservation Science (

Osiris obtained his MSc in Tropical Ecology from the University of Antilles and Guyana, Guadeloupe, French Indies. He studied the feeding ecology of freshwater crustaceans, supervised by Dr Dominique Monti. After that, he assisted a PhD student at Affenberg Salem, Germany, for four months studying the behaviour of female barbary macaques living semi-freely. The following year, he studied Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation at Roehampton University, London, UK. For this MRes, Osiris studied the nesting ecology of Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees in a small fragmented mountainous forest of north-western Cameroon. He later created and led the Ellioti Project, a regional project to map the distribution of chimpanzees and the diversity of monkeys in this same area. Osiris is now a Lecturer in Conservation Science as a maternity cover at Bristol Zoological Society.

My topics of interest are:

  • Primate Ecology
  • Wildlife Conservation

Katie Major, MSc, Conservation Psychologist and Campaigns Manager (

Katie’s interest in animal behaviour and wildlife conservation first developed during her BSc Psychology degree at Plymouth University, and she completed an MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University to develop these interests further. She has conducted research examining the behaviour and welfare of various captive species in both zoos and aquariums, including fish and lemurs and has also spent eight months living in remote forests of the Philippines working with the Agta, an indigenous hunter-gatherer population. During this fieldwork she examined the knowledge and perceptions the Agta had of the national park they lived in and their relationship with the wildlife around them, as well as working as a field assistant collecting genealogical information and behavioural data. Katie joined Bristol Zoological Society in spring 2015 and is responsible for coordinating and managing behaviour-change campaigns at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Research interests:

  • Applying psychology to promote pro-environmental behaviour, specifically in regards to behaviour change 
  • The role that indigenous people have in managing protected areas and their knowledge of the environment and their rights
  • Visitor research in the zoo
  • Human-wildlife interactions in general, particularly in the context of a protected area. 

Dr.Richard Sherley, Postdoctoral Research Associate 

Richard is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the Bristol Zoological Society and the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter. Richard gained a PhD from the University of Bristol in 2010 for research on the conservation and ecology of two seabird species on Robben Island, South Africa. From 2011 to 2014 he carried out postdoctoral research at the University of Cape Town, before joining the Bristol Zoological Society in 2015. His interests focus on conservation biology and population ecology. Increasingly wild animal populations are declining because of human-induced pressures and these population-level changes are underpinned by individual-level responses within a range of life history traits. In particular, in the marine environment, understanding the drivers of dispersal behaviour and survival of non-breeding individuals has received little attention, even though compensatory recruitment can play vital roles in buffering populations against collapse. Richard thus studies seabirds to understand the impact of anthropogenic and environmental change in marine ecosystems. More broadly, he is interested in how the conditions that animals experience during development may influence later fitness, how to consider life-history strategies in conservation and how technology can assist our understanding of animal behaviour and population ecology to create tangible conservation benefits.

Jen Nightingale - UK Conservation Manager

Jen received her Zoology degree from the University of Bristol, after a childhood of volunteering with the RSPCA and local veterinary practices.  She then worked in Zimbabwe tracking rhino and conducting habitat surveys for the World Wide Fund for Nature before moving to Canada to work as an educator at Vancouver Aquarium and Stanley Park Zoo. On returning to the UK, she worked for three years within public Aquariums before joining Bristol Zoo as their Aquarium Curator.  During her time as curator, Jen worked out in Mexico surveying rivers and helping to develop a fish ark for endemic, endangered live-bearing goodeid fish.  She also worked at Columbus Zoo, rehabilitating injured manatees. She received her Masters in Wildlife Conservation and Management from Reading University, which focused on researching the impact of invasive fish species on our native aquatic populations.  This led on to Jen developing the UK Conservation department at Bristol Zoo, which instigates captive breeding and reintroduction for species such as barbary carpet moth, fen raft spider, water vole and crayfish, in addition to leading on invasive species control within Bristol and adjoining counties. Jen established the South West Crayfish Partnership in 2008, in attempt to halt the decline of this endangered species within SW England and she is currently studying for her PhD part time, at the University of Bristol, perfecting the art of breeding white-clawed crayfish for wild release, whilst continuing to run Bristol Zoo’s UK conservation team.  

Members of other teams in the zoo can also supervise student projects

Simon Garrett, Head of Conservation Learning (

After spending a childhood exploring wildlife in streams, under logs, in rock pools, and in the woods and fields, Simon gained a biology degree at the University of Bristol. After leading a post-grad expedition to the forests of Venezuela, he started as an Education Officer at the Zoo, and now, 25 years later, leads a sizable Learning Department, encompassing all aspects of formal and informal learning, and working closely with the Conservation Science department in the delivery of HE programmes.  He was a member of the BIAZA Education and Training Committee for ten years, and is a member of the International Zoo Educators’ Association.  He also sits on the steering group of the Bristol Natural History Consortium (BNHC), and is part of the BNHC committee that oversees the annual ‘Communicate’ conference.  His main interest is developing the conservation role of zoos into the field of encouraging wildlife-friendly actions in zoo visitors.
The research areas Simon is interested in are:

  • what is the impact of a zoo visit on someone’s pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour?
  • what are the most effective tools and models for increasing that positive impact?
  • to what extent does an ‘engagement’ with nature lead to measurable effective action?
  • how can we best integrate the commercial imperatives of running a zoo as a visitor attraction with the mission-related outcomes, in particular taking the one ‘visitor experience’ and ensuring that it delivers both on satisfaction for a family day out *and* measurable change for the benefit of wildlife conservation. 

Katie Farquhar, MSc, Education Officer (

Katie is a Zoologist who has carried out a research project on habitat selection and feeding preferences of the Cypriot Lake frog (Rana levantina) which was published in the British Herpetological Bulletin.  This completed her BSc hons. in Zoology. She also assisted with Dr Brendan Godley’s PhD work in north Cyprus investigating the nesting and hatching behaviour of green and loggerhead turtles.  Her MSc was gained at Napier University and involved a study on feeding preferences of red squirrels on Arran.  After completing her studies she has gained experience of working in education at Blackpool Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo and the RSPB. She is currently teaching within Bristol Zoo’s Education department. Alongside her work at Bristol Zoo she is a regional assessor for the DMZAA course at Sparsholt College. 

Richard Saunders MRCVS, DZooMed (Mammalian)

Richard is a RCVS Registered Specialist in Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine (Mammals).  He gained his BSc and BVSc from Liverpool University and has worked in a charity wildlife clinic plus private veterinary practice, with exotic and domestic pets.  For the past 8 years he has worked in Bristol Zoo Veterinary Department and within private practice for exotic animals (especially mammal). He has supervised student projects on gorilla reproduction, infectious diseases in rabbits and gastrointestinal bacteria flora in birds. 
Research interests:

  • Rabbits, rodents, birds of prey, marine mammals, invertebrates
  • Future subjects could involve any areas of veterinary medicine of zoo species.



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