Dr Lisa Holmes

Lead Conservation Scientist - Behaviour & Welfare

  • Qualifications BSc PhD
  • Focus area
  • Location
    At the Zoo
  • Additional Information Vice Chair BIAZA Animal Welfare Working Group

I have a variety of experience working in the finance and education sectors prior to embarking on my scientific career. I obtained my undergraduate degree in Animal Behaviour from Liverpool John Moores University, conducting my dissertation research on female social behaviour in Siamese fighting fish. I then went on to complete my PhD at the University of Liverpool investigating the physiological and reproductive consequences of social competition in cooperatively breeding mammals.

I joined Chester Zoo as Scientific Assistant in 2013 and was responsible for managing research requests and supervising undergraduate student projects. In 2015 I was promoted to the role of Lead Conservation Scientist in Behaviour and Welfare and since then have built-up a team of scientists who work closely with the Animal Curators and Keepers to develop research that aims to monitor and optimise wellbeing for the animals in our care.

In my roles as Vice-Chair of the EAZA and BIAZA Animal Welfare Working Groups, I help to develop strategic policy and practical guidance documents for other zoos, and collaborate with colleagues to undertake multi-institution research. I supervise a number of students from masters to PhD level as well as our Voluntary Work Placement students who undertake a year in industry as part of their undergraduate or inter-calculated masters degrees. I hold an honorary position at the University of Liverpool, deliver a range of lectures and workshops to both students and staff, and I am a member of Chester Zoo’s Ethical Review Committee.


Key publications

Finch, K., Waterman, J.O., Cowl, V., Marshall, A., Underwood, L., Williams, L.J., Davis, N. and Holmes, L. (2022) Island Life: Use of activity budgets and visibility to evaluate a multi-species within-zoo exhibit move. Animals, 12 (6): 2123. DOI: 10.3390/ani12162123

Finch, K., Leary, M., Holmes, L. and Williams, L.J. (2022) Zoo closure does not affect behavior and activity patterns of Palawan binturong (Arctictis binturong whitei). Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens. DOI: 10.3390/jzbg3030030

Waterman, J.O., McNally, R., Harrold, D., Cook, M., Garcia, G., Fidgett, A.L., Holmes, L. (2021) Evaluating environmental enrichment methods in three zoo-housed Varanidae Lizard Species. Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens. DOI: 10.3390/jzbg2040051

Williams, L.J., Finch, K., Agnew, R. & Holmes, L (2021) Effects of nearby construction work on behavior of Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica). Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2: 66-74. https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2010005

Evison E, McKenzie A, Holmes L (2020). Social and environmental impacts on sleep in captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Zoo Biology https://doi.org/10.1002/zoo.21568 

Holmes, L., Edwards, K.L., Moss, A., Tollington, S., Fowler, A., Hughes, D. and Sudell, M. (2020) Statistics at the Zoo. Significance. DOI: 10.1111/1740-9713.01446

Finch, K., Williams, L.J. and Holmes, L. (2020) Using longitudinal data to evaluate the behavioural impact of a switch to carcass feeding on an Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica). Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 8 (4): DOI: 10.19227/jzar.v8i4.475

Stockley, P., Bottell, L. (now Holmes, L.) and Hurst, J.L. 2013. Wake up and smell the conflict: odour signals in female competition. Royal Society Philosophical Transactions B, 368 (1631) DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0082

Partners and Collaborators


If you are interested in collaborating with Dr. Lisa Holmes on a project, you can view her work on ResearchGate and connect with her on LinkedIn.

If you would like to get in touch with Dr. Lisa Holmes directly, you can do so using the button below:

Get in touch 

I work closely with the animal curators and teams, leading on research which contributes to best practice for animal health and welfare. Together with our curators I am also currently developing welfare assessment protocols for captive zoo animals.

Dr. Lisa Holmes