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Dr Eleanor Kean

Dr Eleanor KeanOVERVIEW

After my BSc in Animal Behaviour from Liverpool University, I worked in the Conservation and Research department at Chester Zoo and as a Conservation Officer for Cheshire Wildlife Trust. I joined Cardiff University to study for my PhD in odour communication and its potential use in wildlife population monitoring. I gained a British Ecological Society Parliamentary fellowship in 2011, working in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on a parliamentary briefing about ecosystems and land use policy which I was invited to present to the European Commission. I completed my PhD in 2012 and have since been employed on Cardiff University Otter Project working on ecotoxicology and mammal distribution in the UK.


Position: Research Associate


Telephone: +44 (0)29 208 75384

Location: Cardiff School of Biosciences, The Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX


1. Ecotoxicology

Chemicals released into the environment by humans can have devastating effects on wildlife populations with implications for the wider ecosystem. My work, in collaboration with Dr Liz Chadwick, has summarised the long term and widespread declines in persistent organic pollutants in otters in the UK and in general the good health of the population, highlighting the success of legislative controls. We have recently, however, reported worrying trends in male otter reproductive health. I am interested in sub-lethal effects of current use chemicals for example pharmaceuticals. I am working in partnership with Dr Liz Chadwick, Vincent Wildlife Trust, CEH, National Museum Scotland and Exeter University to fund investigations into rodenticide poisoning.

2. Odour communication

For my PhD I investigated using animal odour signals to identify individuals and monitor populations (with Dr Liz Chadwick and Dr Carsten Muller, Cardiff University). The Eurasian otter was an ideal model for this because they are largely solitary and have large home ranges (typically up to 40km of river), so direct communication between individuals is thought to be limited. It is generally assumed that otters communicate primarily using ‘spraint’, a deposit of faeces mixed with scent material from a pair of anal glands. This could provide a significant advance in population monitoring, which is currently limited to distributional surveys (spraint indicating that ‘an otter’ has been there, but not which otter or how many).

I am now working on the impact of infections on animal odours with Dr Sarah Perkins

3. Science-policy

Land underpins the whole economy, through provision of food and other goods and its use for housing, business, transport, energy, tourism and recreation. The UK faces major challenges addressing projected population increases, climate change and economic growth with limited land and natural resources. My Fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (2011) examined how policy structures, including planning reforms, might deliver land use systems that meet these challenges. I also took part in the British Ecological Society (BES) Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme with the Welsh Government Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development (May 2012) and contributed to the BES Public and Policy Committee Strategy meeting.

4. Mammal ecology and conservation

In collaboration with the Mammal Society, I have advised the NBN/Defra on UK Mammal distribution and sensitivity of records. I am working with the Otter Project on otter diet. Other areas of interest include developing novel monitoring techniques, assessing the effectiveness of mitigation, and otter-fisheries conflict.


Popular press: Press releases have resulted in BBC Wildlife Magazine ‘Discovery of the Month’, live television and radio interviews and various newspaper and internet articles. I have appeared in Channel 4 (Foxes Live, 2012) and BBC (Iolo’s Welsh Parks, 2013) documentaries and have helped the BBC to interpret animal behaviour from video footage.

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