Each MSc student undertakes an individual research project, between May and the middle of August, producing a grant application and a scientific paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. A conference is held in September where each student gives a presentation on their research findings. Over 100 scientific publications have resulted from research projects undertaken by MSc WAH and WAB students. The project will encompass a practical study on an approved aspect of wild animal biology.
The research project provides the opportunity to study a topic suited to the student’s desired career. A wide variety of topic areas have been chosen including projects in welfare, behaviour, infectious diseases, reproduction, nutrition, rehabilitation and management of both captive and free-living wild animals. The project may be undertaken at any place approved by the Zoological Society of London/Royal Veterinary College with the guidance of a course supervisor. Examples of previous WAB students research projects are written below.
Distance sampling using camera trap data for forest antelope in the Dja Biosphere, Cameroon
Distance sampling is used to estimate species abundance, which traditionally requires transects to be walked or driven in the field. However, in an ecosystem such the Dja, the dense rainforest reduces visibility and transects on foot become extremely laborious. This project sought to combine the theory of distance sampling with images collected from camera traps to gain estimates of species abundance for blue duiker (Philantomba monticola). During camera setup, the field team were photographed at set distances away from the camera, which were later used as reference images to categorise images of the species of forest antelope we used as a sample species. This was found to be a viable method for estimates of species abundance and is currently being expanded to analysis on other species.
Ka Yiu (Michael) Hui
Using Wildlife eco-park to unite tourists and communities for wild elephant conservation: A study from Wild Elephant Valley, Xishuangbanna, China
Human-wildlife conflict is an increasingly important issue in many conservation circles and the economic and emotional impact these conflicts can cause is still being understood. Michael’s project aimed to study the human-wildlife conflict issues between villagers and Asian Elephants in rural villages in China where severe economic loss caused by elephants resulted in the lack of support for conservation from local communities. Michael travelled to China to evaluate the current situation of human-elephant conflicts and to find out how local people mitigate their loss. He also broached into the potential for eco-tourism in the area as a way to sustainably support villagers and simultaneously protect the elephants in order to achieve human-elephant coexistence.
The Effects of Visitor Density and Noise on the Behaviour of Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
Rebecca’s project was designed with the aim of quantifying the effects of visitor presence on the gorillas housed at London Zoo to determine if visitors impact welfare. Behavioural observations are important in captive wild animals as they can provide insight into an animal’s mental wellbeing, highlighting potential problems, as certain behaviours or patterns of behaviour can be linked to increased stress. By using a focal scan sampling technique and continuous observations, Rebecca determined activity budgets and frequencies of stress-related behaviours in the gorillas at different categories of visitor density, frequency and noise volume.
What are the risk factors contributing to adverse surgical outcome in zoo birds & reptiles and does surgical outcome varies with the amount of surgical caseload and holding numbers of the zoological collections?
Zoological collections house a large variety of different species. Hence, veterinary teams have to be well equipped and well versed in a variety of surgical techniques because when surgical intervention is required, it may be in a species of conservation importance, and thus individual of value. Surabhi decided to evaluate the risk factors leading to adverse surgical outcomes in zoo birds and reptiles so that the findings could be used in decision making for future surgical cases.