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BCSF Research Themes

The original habitat of many species, terrestrial and aquatic, is being destroyed at an accelerating rate. This is usually associated with an alteration to the remaining habitat, which becomes degraded, fragmented or in other ways disturbed by human activities.

During the last 15 years, an increasing number of studies have focussed on the way that different species respond to human-induced change of their habitats. These responses are varied and range from population decline to adaptation and development of new behavioural strategies. Research conducted by BCSF aims to assess if, and how well, species in our field programme areas are able to adapt to altered habitats and what we need to do to mitigate the effects of habitat alteration on those species. 

The BCSF’s ‘Research for Conservation’ programme is organised into four major research themes: Conservation Ecology, Nutritional Ecology and Physiology, Behavioural Ecology and Welfare, and Conservation Medicine. A fifth research theme, Behaviour Change for Wildlife Conservation, is part of the strategic intent of the Society and will be developed as resources allow.

Conservation Ecology

Image of a lemurThe conservation ecology research theme underpins BCSF’s field conservation programmes with a sound scientific evidence that can be used to optimise and set priorities for our interventions. In particular, we aim to assess how endangered species are coping with the disturbance and alteration of their habitats caused by humans, and describe the patterns of their responses to habitat change. We also aim to develop methodologies and tools for more efficient assessment of threats to species, and for mitigating the effects of habitat alteration.

Nutritional Ecology and Physiology

Image of fruit batThe nutritional ecology and physiology research theme aims to assist the captive breeding of endangered species by basing the nutrition of the animals at Bristol Zoo Gardens (and in our partner institutions) on a scientific foundation and thus optimising nutrient and energy intake. We also aim to test basic hypotheses in nutrition and energetics, and to use information and concepts derived from our research on the nutritional ecology of wild animals to enhance conservation effort, both here and in the wild.

Behavioural Ecology and Welfare

Image of pygmy hippo at Bristol ZooThe behavioural ecology and welfare research theme has two main aims: With regards to basic research, we aim to test hypotheses on the evolution, cause and function of different activity patterns in animals, as well as the effects of the conditions in an artificial (captive) habitat on social behaviour and other behavioural patterns. In terms of applied research, we assess the potential effects of zoo visitors on animal behaviour and welfare and look at patterns of enclosure use and abnormal behaviour. The results help optimise the management of the animal populations at Bristol Zoo and in our partner institutions.

Conservation Medicine

Image of an animal xray at Bristol ZooThe aim of our Conservation Medicine research theme is to assist our conservation breeding programmes at Bristol Zoo and field conservation programmes by increasing the understanding of wild animal diseases and their impact on the conservation of endangered species. We also aim to develop new methodologies of disease control and new effective treatments for the rare and threatened species in our care.


Behaviour Change for Wildlife Conservation

This aspect of our research is grounded in social science, and ties in with the Society’s strategic aim to encourage guests toResearch carry out environmentally friendly actions. Our annual behaviour change campaigns are designed, developed and evaluated through a suite of qualitative methods. These include belief elicitation, online questionnaires, interviewing and statistical analysis. Eventually we aim to collate research for publication in peer reviewed journals,and workshop delivery at conferences. As this is a new research theme for the organisation, we are striving build our expertise through extensive literature review and contact with external parties such as the University of Bristol’s Department of Experimental Psychology, and Zoos Victoria. 

BCSF Research Themes

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For more information on our conservation research click below