8 Nov 2017

Our main aim was to bring learning to life, giving Year 10 and 11 students the opportunity to undertake group work and engage in problem solving activities to solve the mystery of the murdered goat.

Upon entering our Islands Sumba schoolhouse, our students are instantly transported to the farmlands and bordering tropical rainforests of Nepal, thanks to our 360 degree wall projection system. They’re instantly faced with a crime scene; the chalky outline of a dead goat and some clues left behind by some pretty large predators. Their mission: to investigate the claims of a local farmer, who’s blaming a tiger for the death of his precious livestock.

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As a result of successful conservation work over the last few years, pleasingly tiger numbers have increased. Sadly however, attacks on people and livestock are becoming more frequent as a result.

With the use of camera trap images and real bioartefacts, the students will examine different animal monitoring techniques and discuss the pros and cons of each. We then move on to genetic sampling methods, with a basic overview of the genome, chromosome, DNA, base pairs, mutations and microsatellites. Armed with this background knowledge, the students then ‘sequence’ the DNA in their chosen faecal samples using augmented reality, before matching this genetic fingerprint to our database. Once they’ve successfully identified what kind of animal was present at the crime scene, it’s time to find out ‘poo done it?’ by ‘metabarcoding’ the sample to see what their animals have been eating! If domestic goat appears on the menu, then we’ve found our hungry predator!

We explore Chester Zoo’s involvement in reducing this human-wildlife conflict, watching video interviews with our Conservation Science Project Manager, Valerie de Liedekerke. She explains how Chester Zoo staff members are helping villagers to construct predator-proof pens and use biogas stoves, thereby limiting the contact they have with wild animals and allowing them to coexist peacefully.

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We really wanted to showcase some of the exciting work that Chester Zoo is involved with out in the field, so using our Living with Tigers project work seemed a perfect way to build upon and provide context to the students’ school-based classroom learning. It was great to develop a session working closely with our science and conservation teams, having the support and expertise of Valerie and Simon Tollington (Conservation Scientist).

We’re really excited to see the reactions of the students, and look forward to working closely with our incredible science team on future workshops! Find out more about this workshop, here >