Blair Drummond Zoo and Safari Park Collaboration & Educational Impact
Dr Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas research and develop new animal-computer systems. She has been working with Blair Drummond Zoo and Safari park since 2021. She has published papers from this collaboration, one at ISS'23 on giraffes, which won an honourable mention award. So far, she has been developing technologies viewable by the public and designed to increase visitor education and for animals to investigate their behaviours with computer devices and featuring on their website https://www.blairdrummond.com/conservation/research/
When she has technologies in the zoo, the zoo sometimes puts up signs about the technologies if they are viewable by the public. She received a fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2023 to work with the zoo to develop these to help towards Scottish educational offerings and she has given talks/written for the British Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the regulating body on technologies developed at zoos, as part of this work on how to build zoo tech. She has also participated in the Glasgow Science Festival looking at animal tech for children. Further, her research with them has been featured on STV news, The Scotsman, etc. Finally, PhD, interns and Level 4/5 students have been involved in this collaboration and won best thesis awards for their research at the zoo.
Above are some photos to give an idea of the technologies her group develops; a tangible touch-based device for giraffes that plays audio to giraffes when licked/head-butted and a chimpanzee heating device so they can warm up and stay outside longer triggered by standing on a projected square of light (they use it sometimes to warm their mouths hence the photo!).