Dr Eleanor Kean
Engagement and Research Officer
Research - ecotoxicology, odour communication and wildlife conservation.
Co-chair British Ecological Society Wales Policy Group, Co-ordinator Wildlife and Roads Group, Fellow of the Linnean Society, Member of IUCN SSC Otter Specialist Group.
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 in 2008 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 part time (due to caring responsibilities) on Cardiff University Otter Project and NERC-DURESS.
I contribute to teaching MRes and PhD level statistics and 2nd year undergraduate Animal Behaviour. I supervise final year project students, professional training year students and advise some PhD students.
I coordinate stalls at public engagement events, manage web, social media activities and newsletters to engage the public and other stakeholders in our research.
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.
Chemicals released into the environment by humans can have devastating effects on wildlife populations with implications for the wider ecosystem. In collaboration with Dr Liz Chadwick, Prof Richard Shore (CEH), the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales, we have 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. I am now interested in sub-lethal effects of current use chemicals for example pharmaceuticals, working with Dr Liz Chadwick, Prof Richard Shore (CEH) and Dr Juliet Hynes.
2. Odour communication
During my PhD I investigated using animal odour signals to monitor populations and identify individuals (with Dr Liz Chadwick and Dr Carsten Muller). The Eurasian otter is an ideal model for this because they are largely solitary with large home ranges which limits direct communication between individuals. Instead they primarily use ‘spraint’ in communication, a deposit of faeces mixed with scent material from a pair of anal glands. Scent analysis 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). We are developing these ideas further with PhD student Nia Thomas to combine DNA and odour analyses. I am also interested in how health status changes animal odours with Dr Sarah Perkins.
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).
Through my work with NERC-DURESS I am interested in how large scale environmental research projects create and measure societal impact.
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.
Peoples Trust for Endangered Species
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (major contributor to £150k application)
Anonymous donor (major contributor to £175k application)
British Ecological Society