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New zoo and aquarium links set to be forged as lecturer joins research committee

Posted 19 November

A woman – Dr Ellen Williams - smiles at the camera in front of an autumnal scene.

An Animal Behaviour lecturer from Harper Adams University has joined the research committee of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums – and is hoping to forge new links as a result.

Dr Ellen Williams, who lectures in Animal Behaviour and Welfare, has joined the BIAZA Research Committee as a co-opted member.

Having gained her PhD in elephant social behaviour, Dr Williams has conducted extensive research in zoos. She not only studied zoo elephants but has also recently carried out a number of research projects which examine the impact that zoo closures during covid-19 lockdowns had on animals – including research on meerkats, published earlier this year, and an upcoming paper on primate behaviour.

She is now hoping that her new role with BIAZA will strengthen the links between collections and Harper Adams – and boost the research work which students will be able to carry out at zoos across the British Isles.

Explaining why she applied, Dr Williams said: “They wanted people who don’t work in BIAZA collections, and who had scientific skills – and particularly people who work in Higher Education. I saw that and knew it would be good for Harper Adams.

“What I’d like to do is work collaboratively with more BIAZA collections – in my application, I talked about the strong interest in working with zoos many of our students have – lots of them are taking my Philosophy of Zoos module, and it would be great to offer them more opportunities to support the research we discuss in that module.

“The majority of dissertation students I am working with are looking at zoo related projects – which is really fantastic! For some of our students, they also get the chance to be involved in bigger research projects too – those which run longitudinally and which allow us to examine animal behaviour over a period of time.”

As well as these links which boost her students’ experience, Dr Williams will also lend her skills to BIAZA in other ways, such as working to arrange a BIAZA Research Conference to help discuss, analyse and promote the work being undertaken in BIAZA collections.

She added: “This is a really exciting opportunity both for me as a zoo researcher and also Harper Adams. I am really looking forward to working with the BIAZA Research Committee and linking Harper students with collections to help support ongoing research. It provides real-life experiences for the students with practical application in animal management and welfare.”

More information on the research being conducted by Dr Williams is available on her Research Gate profile.

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