Dr Sue Walker

B.Sc M.Sc. Ph.D.

Head of Science

Co-Chair EAZA Group on Zoo Animal Contraception (EGZAC)

As Head of Science at Chester Zoo I focus on strategically driving forward Chester Zoo’s reputation as an effective and collaborative science organization through the development of academic strategic partnerships and research training opportunities that underpin our conservation initiatives.   

I have worked within zoo science and the field of animal reproductive science for over 20 years working within reproductive departments at the University of Guelph, Canada; Toronto Zoo, Canada; Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institution, USA and the University of Liverpool, UK. I joined Chester Zoo in 2007 as the zoo’s Wildlife Endocrinologist, became Scientific Manager in 2013 and Head of Applied Science in 2014.

I co-founded EAZA Group on Zoo Animal ContraceptionInternational Society of Wildlife Endocrinologists and I am a member of the EAZA Research Committee.  I have set-up wildlife endocrinology laboratories around the globe in six different countries. Additionally, I have established Chester Zoo’s Scholars and Fellows scheme which aims to maximise our conservation impact by providing evidence to influence conservation management, while expanding and equipping a new generation with the skillset required to address global conservation challenges.

My research interests are aimed at providing answers that will lead to effective population management and long-term population fitness. I strongly believe in the value of integrated species management planning or the ‘One Plan Approach’ where in situ and ex situ population management effectively come together and work towards protecting the world’s biodiversity.

My current research support the following conservation initiatives: Pine Marten Recovery Project, MEME and the Black Rhinoceros Programme. These projects are exploring novel ways to effectively manage animal populations inside and outside their natural range to maximise their conservation value and promote animal welfare.

Together with my team, we are currently developing several further exciting scientific initiatives in conservation breeding and population management, wildlife health and welfare and community engagement, both within the zoo and around the world.

Key publications

Cowl, V. B., Walker, S. L., Feltrer, Y. 2018. Assessing the efficacy of deslorelin acetate implants (Suprelorin®) in alternative placement sites. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 49(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1638/2017-0153R.1

Lea, J.M., Walker, S.L., Kerley, G.I., Jackson, J., Matevich, S.C., Shultz, S. 2017 Noninvasive physiological markers demonstrate link between habitat quality, adult sex ratio and poor population growth rate in a vulnerable species, the Cape mountain zebra. Functional Ecology, 32(2), 300-312. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13000

Yarnell, Y. and Walker, S. L. 2017.  Environmental conditions impact upon faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations; a case study in Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi). African Journal of Wildlife Research, 47(2): 138–143. https://doi.org/10.3957/056.047.0138

Wong, E.P., Yon, L., Walker, S.L., Purcell, R., Campos-Arceiz, A. 2016. Concentrations of faecal glucocorticoid metabolites in Asian elephant’s dung are stable for up to 8 h in a tropical environment. Conservation Physiology, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/cow032

Edwards, K.E., Trotter, J., Jones, M., Steinmetz, H., Walker, S.L. 2015. Investigating temporary acyclicity in a captive group of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus): relationship between management, adrenal activity and social factors. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 225, 104-116. 10.1016/j.ygcen.2015.09.011

Sanderson, J.L., Nichols, H.J., Marshall, H.H., Vitikainen, E.I.K., Thompson, F.J, Walker, S.L., Cant, M.A., Young, A.J. 2015. Elevated glucocorticoid concentrations during gestation predict reduced reproductive success in subordinate female banded mongooses. Biology Letters, 11(10). http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/11/10/20150620

Edwards, K.L., Walker, S.L., Dunham, A.D., Pilgrim, M., Okita-Ouma, B., Shultz, S. 2015. Low birth rates and reproductive skew limit the viability of Europe’s captive eastern black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis michaeli. Biodiversity and Conservation, 24(11), 2831-2852. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-015-0976-7

Edwards, K.L., Shultz, S., Pilgrim, M. and Walker, S.L. 2015. Male reproductive success is correlated with testosterone in the eastern black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli), General and Comparative Endocrinology, 213, 40-49.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2014.12.015

Edwards, K.L., Shultz, S., Pilgrim, M., Walker, S.L. 2014. Irregular ovarian activity, body condition and behavioural differences are associated with reproductive success in female eastern black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli). General and Comparative Endocrinology, 214, 186-194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2014.07.026

Antwis, R.E., Purcell, R., Walker, S.L., Narayan, E., Fidgett, A.L., Preziosi, F.R. 2014. Effects of visible implanted elastomer marking on physiology traits of frogs. Conservation Physiology, 2(1), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/cou042

Sanderson, J., Young, A., Hodge, S., Kyabulima, S., Walker, S.L., Cant, M. 2014. Hormonal mediation of a carry-over effect in a wild cooperative mammal. Functional Ecology, 28(6), 1377-1386.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.12307

Edwards, K.L., McArthur, H.M., Liddicoat, T., Walker, S.L. 2014.  A practical field extraction method for non-invasive monitoring of hormonal activity in black rhinoceros, Diceros bicornis. Conservation Physiology, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/cot037

Watson, R., Munro, C., Edwards, K., Norton, V., Brown, J.L., Walker, S.L. 2012. Development of a versatile enzyme immunoassay for non-invasive assessment of glucocorticoid metabolites in a diversity of taxonomic species. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 186, 16-24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.02.001

Projects I'm involved in

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