Professor Robert Young
School of Science, Engineering and Environment
Professor of Wildlife Conservation
Ever since I was a child I was fascinated by animals and their behaviour. Growing-up in the 1970s I became aware that if I wished to study animals in the wild or zoos that animals first needed to be conserved and their welfare protected. It was, thus, that studied for a BSc (Hons) in Biology at the University of Nottingham (1986-1989) and then did a PhD in Animal Behaviour/Animal Welfare at the University of Edinburgh (1989-1993).
After this I worked for four years, as a researcher, at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (Edinburgh Zoo) before moving full-time into academia. Whilst working at Edinburgh Zoo I learnt about how zoos can make significant contribution to animal conservation whilst at the same time respecting the wellbeing of their animals. From 2001-2013, I worked as Professor of Animal Behaviour and Conservation at a Brazilian university (PUC Minas in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais) where I was able to realise my lifelong ambition of conducting fieldwork on everything from mammals, birds and reptiles to fish.
In 2013, I returned to the UK accepting the Chair in Wildlife Conservation at the University of Salford Manchester where I divide my time between field conservation projects mainly in Brazil but also Madagascar – and zoo-based research (both conservation and animal welfare orientated). In my career to date I have published research on approximately 50 different species of animal (everything from giant anteaters to humans). I am the author of more than 100 full scientific papers and one textbook about zoo animal welfare.
Recently, my research group has become very interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, and we are using a wide range of methodologies and techniques to answer scientific questions including: behavioural observations, biotelemetry, molecular biology, microbiology, colour analysis, machine learning (artificial intelligence), bioacoustics, biogeography, social network analyses, physiological, amongst others.
All of this rich experience I bring to the supervision of my postgraduate students and to my teaching/tutoring/supervision of undergraduate students. My greatest pleasure as an academic is sharing my wonder of animals with the students that I supervise and teach.
Areas of research
Wildlife Conservation, Animal Welfare, Animal Behaviour, Zoos, Anthropogenic Impacts
Areas of supervision
Animal Conservation, Animal Behaviour, Animal Welfare, Zoos, Fieldwork
Undergraduate: Introduction to Zoo Biology; Zoo Animal Management: Final Year Project; Study Skills; Wildlife Study Skills; Evolution.
Postgraduate (MSc): Wildlife Biology, Ecology and Behaviour; Contemporary Topics in Wildlife Conservation; Acoustics Master Class.
The focus of my research studies are: animal conservation, animal behaviour, and animal welfare. My research studies are divided between field studies of wild animals and the study of animals in captivity (mainly zoos). Most of my field studies are done in Brazil but also in the UK, India and Madagascar. These studies involve using a wide array of methodologies from behavioural observations to genetic studies from non-invasive sampling (e.g., faecal matter). Presently, I have published studies on over 50 species of animals everything from primates to crickets.
Current research projects are:
- Assessing human-carnivore conflict in the Himalayas;
- Assessing the suitability of captive bred animals for reintroduction;
- Investigating cross cultural attitudes to zoo animal welfare;
- The impact of sound on wildlife;
- Use of technology to monitor critically endangered primate species in the wild.
My captive studies have been focused mainly on the welfare of zoo animals but more recently on the evaluation of the behavioural competency of zoo animals for reintroduction programmes. Recently, I have begun research on domestic dogs to investigate questions around how their environment affects their aging processes (a measure of wellbeing). I am also interested in developing automated and rapid assessments of animal welfare using sleep quality or 'apparent age' (difference between perceived age and chronological age) as a measure of animal wellbeing.
Much of my research involves inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary approaches to solving the questions at hand. For example, I work with computer scientists to develop software that can automatically measure sleep quality from digital video. Thus, I collaborate with a wide range of scientists around the world, so that the best tools are used to answer our research questions. My ultimate aim is to see the research my group undertakes, produce practical solutions to animal conservation and animal welfare problems.
- BSc (Hons) Biology (Nottingham 1989)
- PhD Animal Behaviour and Welfare (Edinburgh 1993)