Postgraduate studies

POSTGRADUATE COURSES

Taught Masters - MSc (UK)

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Manchester Metropolitan University

(In partnership with Chester Zoo)

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University of Plymouth

(In partnership with Paignton Zoo)

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Sparsholt University Centre

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Askham Bryan College

University of Plymouth

Sparsholt University Centre

Askham Bryan College

Higher Education in Other UK Zoos:

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MRes, MPhil & PhD opportunities

Funded PhD Project: Harnessing technology to monitor and enable wild-type behaviour in captive parrots 

CENTA - University of Birmingham

This project will consist of two main components addressing these challenges: 1) joining an existing team to extend work already in progress to determine how to enable wild-type behaviour in parrot species, with a specific focus on how to facilitate wild-type social behaviours and social structure in captivity; 2) developing and validating a novel process of AI monitoring of parrot behaviour through video, using neural networks which deliver pose estimation, from which simple behavioural measures will be automatically extracted and monitored. This process will not replace in-person behavioural monitoring but will provide a large evidence-base of activity and social association, enabling zoo resources to be focussed on the most important needs identified.

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Deadline: January 11, 2021

Funded PhD Project: Gorilla behavioural ecology in captive setting

CENTA - University of Birmingham

The Enclosure Design Tool (EDT) is an interactive web-based application we developed to address these issues. It translates research on wild apes into a format that captive settings can use to encourage wild-type behaviours in their great apes. It compares behavioural-ecology data from captive individuals to data profiled for wild individuals and recommends enclosure modifications to elicit missing or under-represented wild-type behaviours. It focusses on replicating the mechanical challenges apes experience in the wild to create enclosures that behave naturally, rather than ones that look natural to visitors.

The purpose of this studentship is to create an EDT for gorillas to complement existing EDTs for orangutans and chimpanzees. Gorillas are difficult to care for in captivity because of their large size, advanced cognitive abilities, sensitivity to stress, and their complex natural social groupings. They are also at significant risk of contracting zoonotic diseases from humans.  The aims of this PhD are 1) conduct literature reviews to better understand the physical and cognitive demands of natural environments for wild gorillas and 2) to apply the findings to captive environments to ensure that zoos and sanctuaries can meet the health and biological needs of the gorillas in their care. The results will guide development of new ways to replicate natural habitats in captivity and facilitate positive social groupings to improve their quality of life and chances of successful reintroduction to the wild (where this is possible). This project is a partnership between the University of Birmingham, Paignton Zoo and Twycross Zoo. It will also embed the student in a global One Health programme (led by Unwin) that aims to achieve optimal health outcomes for people, animals, plants, and their shared environment, by recognising their interconnectedness.

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Deadline: January 11, 2021

Funded PhD Project: Reconstructing Lemur Diets Using Organic Geochemistry

CENTA - University of Birmingham

In this project you will interrogate organic biomarkers and DNA in the faeces of captive lemurs from the Duke Lemur Center (DLC). At the DLC, lemurs live in multiacre forested enclosures in which they readily forage on local vegetation. By sampling faeces from captive individuals consuming provisioned or naturally foraged diets, you will determine which dietary aspects can be fingerprinted using faecal biomarkers. You will also have the opportunity work alongside Twycross Zoo staff on projects that are aligned with the Zoo’s conservation objectives, shadowing zoo staff and undertaking a complementary zoo-based project on animal behaviour, conservation, education or sustainability. Covid-19 permitting, research visits to (1) the DLC to undertake a dietary manipulation in captive lemurs and to (2) Madagascar to apply this work to wild lemurs are both possible. International work would occur in conjunction with collaborators from Duke University in the USA and the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar.

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Deadline: January 11, 2021

Funded PhD Project: The evolution of locomotion in birds 

University of Liverpool, UK

Here we propose a new hypothesis: that changes in body shape and limb posture were initially driven by selection for enhanced jumping and walking performance on compliant substrates (i.e. branches) prior to the evolutionary radiation of flying taxa. To test this hypothesis the student will collect experimental data on birds jumping and walking on hard substrates and branches of varying compliance in both laboratory and zoo settings. Anatomical data from the same birds will be combined with this experimental biomechanical data to build and validate computer models of birds jumping and walking. Having validated this modelling workflow, the student will simulate jumping and walking of a series of bird-line theropod dinosaurs to examine the impact of gross anatomical changes seen in bird-line fossils to quantify effects on biomechanical performance on walking and jumping on hard vs. compliant substrates. 

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Deadline: January 15, 2021

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