Conservation & Science Team

Dr Gráinne McCabe

Dr. Gráinne McCabe, Head of Field Conservation & Science

Gráinne is Head of the Field Conservation and Science Department for Bristol Zoological Society. She directs the global conservation programmes of the Society, and personally leads the Equatorial Guinea Project, focused on western lowland gorillas and forest elephants, and the Tanzania Project, focused on Sanje mangabey monkeys.  Her previous research focused on the reproductive ecology of wild monkeys in both Costa Rica and Tanzania using an integrative approach combining behavioural, ecological, nutritional, endocrinological and parasitological data to gain a better understanding of the factors impacting reproduction in threatened primates. Gráinne received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her Masters from the University of Calgary, Canada, in Primatology. Prior to joining Bristol Zoological Society, she was a joint Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Drexel University (USA) and Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial in Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa, where she focused on primate conservation and attempting to halt the bushmeat trade by lobbying the government, and managing micro-credit projects to promote alternative sources of income.

Potential research topics within the Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania projects:

  • Behavioural ecology for conservation
  • Impact of hunting on wildlife populations in Equatorial Guinea
  • Population level studies examining dynamics, viability and demography
  • Human-wildlife interaction studies, particularly crop-raiding

Dr. Daphne Kerhoas

Dr. Daphne Kerhoas, Higher Education and Conservation Manager

Daphne is an Ethologist and Conservation Biologist specialising in wild primates. Following a M.Sc. in Ethology from the University of Paris XIII, her Ph.D. research at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in collaboration with the German Primate Centre, focussed on male-infant relationships in wild Sulawesi crested macaques. This involved data collection and playback experiments in the wild and laboratory analysis of the genetic samples to determine paternity. Prior to this, Daphne studied in an animal behaviour programme in Bucknell University (USA), and has extensive fieldwork experience in Costa Rica and Nigeria. 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 has worked at Bristol Zoological Society since 2013, and has supervised a variety of student projects ranging from investigating the success of alternative livelihood projects to remote and direct assessment of wildlife population. She is leading the Society’s field projects in the Philippines. Daphne is also the partnership link tutor with the University of Bristol.

Research topics:

  • Primate ecology and behaviour
  • Animal social interactions and how they are affected by their environment
  • Conservation of Philippine species (field site based in Negros)
  • Assessing the impact of conservation project and campaigns such as the ‘Top 25 Most Endangered Primate Species’

Dr Sam Cotton

Dr. Sam Cotton, Higher Education and Conservation Manager

Sam is an evolutionary biologist and behavioural ecologist interested in conservation issues. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Bristol, before moving to UCL to do a Ph.D. on sexual selection and evolutionary genetics.  After his Ph.D., he remained at UCL as a post-doc investigating sexual selection in captive and wild populations.  Subsequently he moved to the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, where he worked on theoretical evolutionary and conservation biology, and also investigated the role and importance of mutation rates in conservation biology. Sam returned to UCL in 2008, having won a NERC Fellowship, and investigated how environmental variation influences sexual selection in wild populations. Sam also taught secondary school science, before joining Bristol Zoological Society as a Lecturer in Conservation Science in 2016. He is now a Higher Education and Conservation Manager for the Society, and he co-leads BZS’s Northern Madagascar field conservation project.

Research topics:

  • Reforestation & habitat restoration in Madagascar
  • Evolutionary conservation biology
  • Sexual selection and evolution
  • Biodiversity and agroecology in Madagascar

Dr Tim Bray

Dr. Tim Bray, Higher Education and Conservation Manager

Tim is a Conservation Geneticist specialising in using molecular genetic approaches to answer questions in conservation, ecology, and the distribution of biological diversity. Subsequent to an M.Sc. in Ecology at Bangor University, his Ph.D. at the University of Cardiff considered genetic introgression in a minority cattle breed. Tim has worked with a variety of ecological and evolutionary systems across several geographical regions. His work encompasses a wide range of spatial and temporal scales as well as considering genetic data in the context of environmental variables. He has since continued to work largely with mammaIian populations in Africa and Arabia. As well as the more well-known groups, such as grey wolves and pipistrelle bats, his work has touched on the more obscure; including jirds, spiny mice, and the solitary Cape dune mole-rat. More recently he has been involved with characterising the incredible diversity of South-east Asian beetle communities, looking into species delimitation and phylogenomics. Tim joined Bristol Zoological Society in 2015 and is the project lead for the BZS Costa Rica project. In Costa Rica, the focus is on trying to understand and solve conservation concerns for species such as the lemur leaf frog, using such approaches as passive acoustic monitoring.

Research topics:

  • Amphibians and acoustic methods
  • Invertebrate diversity
  • Phylogenetics
  • Population genetics; diversity, and demographic modelling

Dr Jen Nightingale

Dr. Jen Nightingale, UK Conservation Manager

Jen is a Conservation Ecologist with a PhD in white-clawed crayfish aquaculture and reintroduction techniques from the University of Bristol and a MSc. in Wildlife Conservation and Management from Reading University, researching the impact of invasive fish species on our native aquatic populations.  Jen developed the Bristol Zoological Society’s UK Conservation team over 12 years ago, which focuses on the conservation of native UK species both in and ex-situ, participating in captive breeding and reintroduction for species such as barbary carpet moth, fen raft spider, water vole and crayfish.  As well as species surveys, habitat restoration and research, the BZS UK Conservation team is involved in public awareness raising campaigns such as the toad patrols.  The BZS team leads on invasive species control within Bristol and adjoining counties and coordinates community action groups to assist with this program.  Jen established the South West Crayfish Partnership in 2008, in attempt to halt the decline of the endangered white-clawed crayfish within SW England and sits on the National Crayfish steering committee.  Jen is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, is on the steering group of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA) Native Species Working Group and chairs the BIAZA UK Reintroduction Advisory Group.

Research topics:

  • Conservation ecology of UK native species/habitats
  • Habitat restoration 
  • Reintroduction
  • Crayfish aquaculture

Dr Mark Abrahams

Dr. Mark Abrahams, Lecturer in Conservation Science

Mark is an interdisciplinary applied Conservation Scientist, working mainly in the tropics. He uses methods from the natural and social sciences and conducts both field-based and Geographical Information System data collection and analyses. Mark attempts to integrate ecological data derived from camera traps, with interview data. His primary research interests revolve around reconciling human needs with biodiversity conservation. His academic background includes an MA in the Philosophy of Property Ownership at Nottingham University, an MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London, studying above ground woody biomass and tree diversity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a PhD focussing on Amazonian subsistence hunting at the University of East Anglia. He has also worked in Corporate Social Responsibility in the UK and Community agroforestry projects in Mozambique.

Research topics:

  • Community based natural resource management
  • Human-wildlife interactions
  • Tropical ecology and conservation
  • Property rights and land ownership                       

Dr Caspian Johnson

Dr. Caspian Johnson, Lecturer in Conservation Science

Caspian received his PhD from Swansea University in 2015 where he studied the ecology and sympatry of baboon and chimpanzee communities in western Tanzania. After this he moved to Indonesia where he worked for an NGO that worked to conserve the Critically Endangered crested black macaque. In this role, he worked to raise the profile of the species and spearheaded the first region wide assessment of the species. After this, Caspian joined the BZS team, initially working on the Society’s Western Lowland Gorilla Programme where he helped design a monitoring strategy for the gorillas but now leads the Society’s Kordofan Giraffe Programme. Here, he works in Bénoué National Park where he helps train, equip and support eco-guard led patrols to help reduce illegal activity in the area. Alongside this, he seeks to understand the distribution and abundance of the parks large mammals, especially the giraffe, through ongoing wildlife monitoring. Caspian’s research interests are focused on how to better understand the statuses of wildlife populations in order to inform bespoke conservation strategies. He uses a combination of camera trapping and drone technology to achieve this.

Research topics:

  • Remote sensing in wildlife conservation 
  • Protected Area management
  • Estimating populations
  • You can view his Google Scholar profile here

Dr Aimee Oxley

Dr. Aimee Oxley, Lecturer in Sustainability and Conservation

Aimee is an interdisciplinary applied conservation scientist who specialises in investigating the co-existence of humans and wildlife in shared spaces, particularly understanding primate responses to subsistence and large-scale agriculture in tropical landscapes. She did her PhD at Oxford Brookes University where she studied chimpanzee responses to human activities in a fragmented forest-farm landscape in Uganda. For her MSc at Imperial College London, she assessed the impact of different agricultural practises on small mammal composition in an Atlantic Forest fragment in Paraguay. Prior to joining the lecturing team she worked as a postdoc in Kenya with York University and has worked in tropical forests across Indonesia, Bolivia and Peru. Prior to her career in conservation, she studied politics and worked in international development NGOs. At Bristol Zoological Society, as well as lecturing and supervising students, Aimee leads on developing the Society’s sustainability strategy and co-leads BZS’s Equatorial Guinea project . She is a member of the BIAZA Environmental Impact and Sustainability Working Group and works with internal and external stakeholders to ensure the new Bristol Zoo is world-leading in terms of environmental sustainability.

Research interests:

  • Human-wildlife interactions and developing effective strategies for co-existence
  • Animal perception of risk and landscape of fear
  • Research/conservation ethics and decolonising conservation
  • Defining and achieving conservation “success”

Sarah Richdon

Sarah Richdon, Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare

Sarah is an animal behaviour and welfare scientist whose research focuses on captive welfare assessment and improvements. She is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Bristol on Livingstone's fruit bat (Pteropus livingtonii) welfare, genetics and behaviour in captivity, with the intention of improving captive breeding and welfare. Having worked at Bristol Zoo for a large proportion of her career, Sarah has taken on various roles including managing an animal collection, delivering education outreach sessions and zoo keeping, which has given her a broad understanding of captive wildlife. Sarah is the lead on animal behaviour and welfare research for Bristol Zoological Society.  

Research topics: 

  • The role of mental states in animal welfare assessment
  • The use of enrichment for reduction of abnormal repetitive behaviours (ARB’s) 
  • Methods of evaluating welfare in captive animals 
  • Investigation into ectothermic welfare

Dr Barbara Tiddi

Dr. Barbara Tiddi, Lecturer in Conservation Science

Barbara is a Behavioural Ecologist broadly interested in how research in animal behaviour can contribute to practical aspects of conservation. Barbara joined Bristol Zoological Society in 2020 and co-leads BZS’s Costa Rica project. Her most recent work has focused on the issue of primate-human interaction within the context of parasite infections and social connectivity. Much of Barbara’s previous work has focused on investigating how specific features of primate social systems shape their behavioural responses in a way that deviates from what broadly predicted by ecological and economic models used in the study of animal behaviour. Her research has been largely based on fieldwork with black capuchin monkeys in Iguazú National Park, Argentina as well as captive Japanese macaques at the Rome Zoo in Italy. In her previous appointment, Barbara was an Associate Lecturer in Biological Anthropology in the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent. Before that, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Cognitive Ethology Lab at the German Primate Center (DPZ) where she investigated the adaptive function of female sexual signals in black capuchin monkeys. Barbara received her PhD in Natural Sciences and Psychology from Liverpool John Moores University, and a BSc in Biological Sciences and Applied Ecology from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (Italy).

Research topics:

  • Primate social behaviour and communication
  • Evolution of female mate choice
  • Anthropogenic disturbance on wildlife in protected areas
  • Conservation behaviour

Dr Samuel Penny

Dr. Samuel Penny, Lecturer in Conservation Science

Sam is a conservation ecologist with particular research interests in behavioural ecology, spatial ecology and bioacoustics. Sam joined Bristol Zoological Society in 2021 and co-leads BZS’s Giraffe Conservation Programme. This project focuses on enhancing the biodiversity of Benoue National Park in North Cameroon and the conservation of Critically Endangered Kordofan giraffe. Prior to this, Sam worked as a Senior Lecturer in Conservation Ecology at University of Brighton, where he completed his PhD on the biological impact of dehorning on the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) and evaluated novel anti-poaching tactics. Sam has also conducted research on the bioacoustics of amphibian populations in Madagascar with the University of Bristol, and the vocal communication of white-handed gibbons in Thailand with the University of Neuchâtel. As well as his work on giraffe, Sam is involved in the ongoing research of several threatened mammal species, including projects investigating the impact of electric fences on ground pangolins (Smutsia temminckii) in South Africa, and human-leopard interactions (Panthera pardus) in Kenya.

Research interests:

  • Behavioural ecology
  • Spatial and population biology
  • Bioacoustics
  • Conservation physiology
  • Remote sensing in wildlife conservation
  • You can view his Google Scholar profile here

Dr Tom Mason

Dr. Tom Mason, Lecturer in Conservation Science

Tom is a conservation scientist interested in the impacts of environmental change on wild animal populations. He collects and analyses ecological and social science data to understand the influences of both natural processes and human activities and uses this information to identify conservation actions that can benefit human-wildlife coexistence. Tom completed a MSc in Conservation & Biodiversity at the University of Exeter and carried out his PhD at Durham University, where he investigated the effects of climate change and hunting on Alpine chamois in the Italian Alps. He has since worked as a postdoctoral researcher investigating the movement ecology of woodland caribou in Canada, conservation conflicts surrounding migratory geese populations and farming in Scotland, the influence of upland management on wading birds in the UK and the impacts of global change on bird migration. Tom joined the team in 2021 and co-leads Bristol Zoological Society’s Philippines conservation project, which focuses on conserving the Critically Endangered Negros bleeding heart dove, as well as other threatened species including the Visayan warty pig and Philippine spotted deer.

Dr Edward Wright

Dr. Edward Wright, Lecturer in Conservation Science

Edward is a behavioural ecologist and conservation biologist, who specialises in the behaviour and conservation of wild gorillas. Before joining Bristol Zoo, Edward was a consultant for the United Nations Environment Programme examining the impact of climate change on the long-term behaviour of mountain gorillas. His PhD. and postdoc research at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology focused on feeding ecology, social behaviour and sexual selection to better understand the factors which influence reproductive success in mountain gorillas. This involved several years of data collection in Uganda and Rwanda. Prior to this, Edward was also involved in research on lowland gorillas, meerkats, cockroaches and horses. Edward joined the Conservation Science Team here at Bristol Zoo in 2021 and along with teaching and supervising students he co-leads the BZS’s Equatorial Guinea project.

Research topics:

  • Primate behaviour and ecology
  • Feeding ecology
  • Sexual selection
  • Gorilla conservation

Neil Green

Neil Green, UK Biosecurity Conservation Officer

Neil has worked on Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) surveying, practical management and control since 2011 for the National Trust North Cornwall Coastal Management, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust – Source to Sea INNS Project, his own business , Green by Nature Conservation carrying out RAPID LIFE INNS work for APHA and CABI and the Avon Invasive Weeds Forum (AIWF) housed within Bristol Zoological Society.   His focus lies with terrestrial species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed and a large body of work relating to aquatic INNS such as Signal crayfish, Zebra mussel and various aquatic plant species.  Recently work has been carried out on a large scale INNS project for the RAPID LIFE invasive species strategy and he has also worked on the CABI led biocontrol work using the Japanese knotweed sap sucking psyllid, Aphalara itadori.  Neil also helped create and run the AQUA - Aquatic Quality Award accreditation scheme, which aims to increase biosecurity uptake from water way users such as anglers and boaters across the south west of England.  To date, 60 sites have been accredited.  In addition, Neil coordinates a series of native species ecological surveys at the Wild Place Project and carries out surveys across the south west on the white-clawed crayfish.

Carys Peotto, UK Conservation Officer

Carys Peotto

Carys is an ecologist and qualified zookeeper with varied experience working with species both in and ex-situ. She is responsible for the

management of the BZS white-clawed crayfish hatchery, where the team breed, rear, and release white-clawed crayfish back into the wild. Carys is involved with various UK conservation field work programmes, including the monitoring and mapping of native white-clawed crayfish Ark sites, and control of the invasive non-native signal crayfish. Carys surveys a range of native species for Bristol Zoological Society with particular focus in bats and great crested newts. She is a volunteer surveyor for various UK wildlife organisations, including The Wildlife Trust, BTO, BCT, and National Trust and is a volunteer bat carer. She is currently undertaking an MSc part-time at the University of South Wales in Wildlife and Conservation Management and previously completed a degree in Animal Science (Behaviour and Welfare) at Plymouth University.

Jess Miller

Jess Miller, Librarian & Administrator

Jess is a qualified librarian with a diverse background in Higher Education and Special Collections libraries, having previously worked at York Minster Library, the University of York and the British Architectural Library before joining the society in 2020. They completed their Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies at UCL, focusing their research on the provision of LGBTQIA+ inclusive library services, and was awarded UCL’s annual Mary Piggott Prize in Cataloguing and Classification. They previously served as a member on CILIP's LGBTQ+ Steering Group Committee and currently volunteer as a cataloguer and workshop-facilitator at ‘Queer Zine Library’. Jess manages the library and archives of Bristol Zoological Society, oversees building management of the Conservation Education Centre at Bristol Zoo Gardens and provides administrative support to the Field Conservation and Science department.

Rachel Craven, Strategic Environmental and Sustainability Officer

Rachel Craven

Rachel is the Strategic Environmental and Sustainability Officer at Bristol Zoological Society. She completed her undergraduate degree at University of Plymouth in BSc (Hons) Environmental Science. This included a dissertation under the title of  “A Critical Analysis of the Advantages and Barriers of the Electric Vehicle Industry”, as well as a research project in Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia, investigating the impact of leaf litter on nutrient pathways within tropical rainforests. Prior to working at BZS Rachel has experience working as an Environmental Consultant for a large engineering consultancy, advising clients on climate resilience and reaching net zero carbon on major infrastructure projects using digital solutions. Rachel has completed BREEAM Associate Training and UKGBC's Global Green Building Programme. At BZS, Rachel will be helping the zoo reach Net-Zero Carbon by 2035 and will lead on developing the Society's Sustainability Strategy. This will involve working alongside key internal and external stakeholders to ensure a cohesive approach in making Bristol Zoological Society a world leader in Sustainability.

Veterinary staff who can supervise student projects

Michelle Barrows

Michelle Barrows BSc BVMS PGCertConsMed (Avian) DipECZM (ZHM)

Michelle graduated from Glasgow University in 1998. She has been Head of Veterinary Services and Conservation Medicine for Bristol Zoological Society since October 2010.  She is also a clinical teacher at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences and the unit lead for two modules on their MSc in Global Wildlife Health and Conservation.  She has previously worked in exotic pet and zoo practice in the UK and also spent seven years working in South Africa, based at Johannesburg Zoo.  She is a European Veterinary Specialist in Zoological Medicine (Zoo Health Management) and also holds the RCVS Certificate and Diploma (Avian) in Zoological Medicine as well as a Post Graduate Certificate in Veterinary Conservation Medicine from Murdoch University.  She is the veterinary advisor to the EAZA Pigeon and Dove TAG and the pink pigeon EEP.  She has supervised PhD and MSc student projects on radiographic anatomy of zoo animals, avian gastrointestinal parasites, antimicrobial resistance in zoos and preventative medicine.

Richard Saunders

Richard Saunders MRCVS, DZooMed (Mammalian)

Richard is a RCVS Registered Specialist in Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine (Mammals).  He gained his B.Sc. and B.V.Sc. from Liverpool University and has worked in a charity wildlife clinic plus private veterinary practice, with exotic and domestic pets.  For the past 8 years he has worked in Bristol Zoo Veterinary Department and within private practice for exotic animals (especially mammal). He has supervised student projects on gorilla reproduction, infectious diseases in rabbits and gastrointestinal bacteria flora in birds.


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