Research spotlight: Dr Courtney Collins

As the global biodiversity crisis deepens, zoos have an increasingly important role to play in educating the public about conservation. However, zoos have struggled to establish themselves as leaders of environmental education. Recent research by Dr Courtney Collins carried out at Fota Wildlife Park and Dingle Aquarium in Ireland shows that learning does occur in the zoo but is enhanced with an educational intervention. This is one of the first large-scale studies of its kind involving children that definitively demonstrates the positive impact of a zoo visit on learning. This study helps to establish two Irish institutions as leaders in environmental education.

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The BEES Zoo Research group engages in a diverse range of research. We have participated in and led worldwide collaborative research projects, conducted comparative research with wild conspecifics, engaged in research with other zoological institutions in Ireland and participated in local research at Fota Wildlife Park including native species research. 

Some of our current projects include:

  • A global investigation of the prevalence of negative visitor behaviour in the zoo setting
  • A comparative analysis of visitor experience with the 'ignored taxa' at several institutions in Ireland
  • An investigation of visitor willingness towards conservation action after three interactive felid experiences
  • On-going research with environmental enrichment for zoo-housed animals
  • A study of the relationship between education, zoo visitors and animal behaviour
  • The behaviour of lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) in captivity
  • Felid behaviour in captivity, including some of the world's most iconic and endangered species like Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), Asiatic lions (Panthera leo leo) and Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatraeLink to Asiatic lion territorial vocalisations at Fota Wildlife Park
  • Managed parks as a refuge for the threatened native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)


We have received funding for our research projects from the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering & Technology (IRCSET) and Irish Research Council (IRC) and The Irish Federation of Univeristy Teachers (IFUT) 

Zoo Research Group

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, T23N73K