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Dr Ellen Williams welcomed as new animal behaviour and welfare lecturer

Posted 10 February

“I love the whole ethos of Harper, and I really like the applied nature of the courses; it fits with the nature of my research in applied animal behaviour."

Harper Adams University has welcomed a new Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Dr Ellen Williams. 

Ellen, who specialises in applied animal behaviour and welfare, gained her PhD in elephant social behaviour before working at several Higher Education institutions as both a lecturer and research fellow. 

Now teaching at Harper Adams, Ellen said: “I am very excited to be joining the team, working at a really beautiful location, and working with students who are as excited about studying and working with animals as I am! 

“I love the whole ethos of Harper, and I really like the applied nature of the courses; it fits with the nature of my research in applied animal behaviour. I realised that the advertised job and modules being taught suited my interests and current work, and I just thought it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. 

“I am hopeful I can bring some zoo expertise to the courses, which will complement the areas of expertise of other staff. I am also looking forward to being able to work with researchers in the farm animal sector and looking at how we can share ideas in relation to animal behaviour on farm and in zoos – I think we can learn lots from each other!” 

With her knowledge of zoo elephants, Ellen’s principal interests are in understanding how the behaviour of animals in zoos can be used to understand the impact of their environments on welfare. She is also passionate about understanding the impact of humans on animal behaviour and welfare within zoos. 

As a member of Elephant Welfare Group Behaviour subgroup since 2013, Ellen has undertaken extensive research including investigating rest behaviour in elephants, particularly looking at how the frequency and duration of lying rest was affected by different substrates, age and presence of social companions. 

She has also worked on a DEFRA-funded project, developing a welfare assessment tool for use on zoo elephants. The tool, now named the Elephant Behavioural Welfare Assessment Tool, has been implemented as a routine welfare assessment measure in zoos. 

Ellen is currently involved in a number of research projects alongside her teaching. Developing from her PhD in social behaviour in zoo elephants (which looked at factors which affected social interactions within groups and temporal dynamics in elephant relationships), she is currently investigating the impacts of Covid-19 zoo closures with the irregular presence of humans on their behaviour and welfare. 

Along with this, Ellen is also currently undertaking research on canine biomechanics; working on a project looking at the impact of working dog trials on joint angles and landing pressure in domestic dogs. 

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