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Our team

Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research

Dr Christoph SchwitzerA biologist by training, Dr Christoph Schwitzer received his PhD in Zoology from the University of Cologne, Germany, for his study on the nutritional ecology of lemurs, which he conducted in several European zoos. He worked as part of the primatological research group at Cologne Zoo for several years and also co-coordinated the European Endangered Species Programme for Ruffed lemurs. In 2003 he took on the role of Programme Coordinator for the Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens (AEECL) in northwest Madagascar, where he worked in a field research and conservation programme that has recently led to the creation of a new national park. Since August 2006 Christoph is Head of Research at BCSF, and since May 2007 he is also Executive Secretary of AEECL.

Christoph’s main research interests are the conservation ecology of lemurs in altered habitats as well as the nutritional ecology of frugivores. He is in charge of the ‘Research for Conservation’ Programme at BCSF and Bristol Zoo Gardens and is also supervising a number of PhD and MSc/DEA studies on the ecology of different critically endangered lemur species in north-western Madagascar.

Tel.: 0117 974 7358
Fax: 0117 973 6814

Dr Sue Dow, Research Officer

Sue DowSue Dow 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 carried out research in Bristol on the biomechanics of bird flight and carried out investigations into tendon injuries and humane treatments for horses. She held a part-timer post at London Zoo where she set up a pilot environmental enrichment programme.

She has worked at Bristol Zoo Gardens since 1992 combining working on building projects and co-ordinating research projects carried out in the zoo. She is a member of the BIAZA Research Group.

Sue’s main research interests are in animal behaviour, the effects of enclosure design on the behavioural repertoire of captive animals, and environmental enrichment as a husbandry technique. She maintains an interest in optimal foraging and food selection, particularly in birds, in captive and semi-natural situations.

Sue is a part time Research Officer and is carrying out a longitudinal study of gorilla social dynamics.

Tel.: 0117 974 7304
Fax: 0117 973 6814

Neil Maddison, Head of Conservation Programmes

Neil MaddisonNeil Maddison gained his first degree in Zoology at the University of Bristol and went on to work for several conservation charities before joining the Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society in 1997, initially as Development Manager. His experience in field conservation has led him to appreciate more fully the link between meeting people’s needs and wildlife conservation. He now specialises on working with communities to develop sustainable solutions whilst taking pressure off natural resources, looking for practical ways to support disadvantaged people in their development. These solutions often lead to an examination of the ‘business case’ for conservation, and creating new sources of revenue for local communities to find ‘win-win’ solutions for people and wildlife. Neil obtained his MBA from the University of the West of England, with a specialisation in pro-poor ecotourism.  He is a Trustee of Ape Action Africa, an NGO working to address the commercial bushmeat trade in Africa and was previously a Trustee of the Hawk and Owl Trust. He is also currently a member of the Conservation Specialist Breeding Group and the Association of MBAs.

Mandy Leivers, Avon Gorge and Downs Biodiversity Education Officer

Mandy LeiversMandy Leivers studied biological sciences at Birmingham University. During this time she discovered her passion for British wildlife and practical conservation. After graduating she spent nine years working for the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers before running a project to protect hedges and dry stone walls in Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire. In 2000 she studied for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Bath University.
Since 2011, Mandy has been the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Biodiversity Education Officer. In this role, she delivers a popular programme of education, interpretation and promotional work to encourage greater public involvement, understanding and enjoyment of the wildlife interest of the Avon Gorge  and  Downs.
Tel.: 0117 9030609

Jen Nightingale, UK Conservation Manager

Jen NightingaleJen Nightingale gained a degree in Zoology from the University of Bristol, a Masters in Wildlife Management and Conservation from Reading University and is a full member of the Institute of Ecological and Environmental Management.  With extensive experience in the aquarium industry, from Vancouver Aquarium and European Sealife Centres, she became Curator of the Aquarium at Bristol Zoo Gardens in 1997 where she focused on a programme of extensive modernisation of exhibits, off show breeding facilities, infrastructure and educational themes.

During this time Jen also played a major role in two successful water vole reintroductions and extended this to establish the position of UK Conservation Officer within the BCSF.  Within this current role Jen focuses on the conservation of UK species both in-and ex-situ and instigated the South West Crayfish Project, the largest white-clawed crayfish initiative in the UK.  Jen is on the Steering Committee of the BIAZA native species focus group.



Dr Amanda Webber – PhD, MSc, BA (Hons),Higher Education and Research Officer


After some time working in West Africa, Amanda became interested in Biological Anthropology and headed off to Costa Rica to gain some field experience observing mantled howler monkeys.  An MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University followed and this lead to a PhD in human-wildlife conflict issues, specifically crop raiding by primates and other large vertebrates in Uganda. 

It didn’t take Amanda long to realise she loved teaching as much as research and she has taught and supervised at Oxford Brookes University (Human Resource Ecology, People & Other Animals and on the MSc Primate Conservation) and University of Bristol (Introduction to Primatology and Anthropology & Conservation).  For the last two years she has also contributed to the Foundation Degree as part of the ISDC module teaching three sessions on Human-Wildlife Conflict.

Amanda joined BCSF in the summer of 2013.  Her main research interests are human-wildlife interactions particularly conflict scenarios, perceptions of ‘pest’ species, and animals more generally, and wildlife conservation. 

Tel: 0117 9747383. 


Daphne Kerhoas  - PhD candidate, MSc, BSc, Higher Education and Research Officer


After pursuing a focus on Ethology throughout her Biology degree in France, Daphne studied in an Animal Behaviour program 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 is a PhD candidate in 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.

Daphne is now working at the Bristol Zoo Gardens and her main research interest is primates’ ecology and behaviour, animal social interactions and how they are affected by their environment.

Tel: 0117 9747382


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Natasha Filer – BA(Hons)Cantab. Guest Action Campaign Coordinator

Natasha Filer

Natasha Filer is Campaign Coordinator at Bristol Zoo Gardens, responsible for designing and implementing behaviour change programmes to engage guests in conservation.  This year her focus has been to improve recognition of the Forest Stewardship Council logo amongst visiting families, championing the management of forests worldwide as a vital concern for today’s consumer.

Natasha holds a degree in Geography from the University of Cambridge and also completed a IARU Global Sustainability Research Fellowship at the University of Copenhagen. Prior to entering the zoo world she worked and volunteered for organisations including the Environment Agency, National Trust and BBC programmes Coast and Countryfile. Natasha is interested in exploring the role that the media and wildlife attractions play in constructing interpretations of nature, and encouraging pro-environmental behaviours.

Tel: 0117 974 7356