Rebecca Lewis

Conservation Scholar

  • Qualifications MA MSc
  • Focus area
  • Location
    At the Zoo South East Asia
  • Additional Information Current programme - PhD Zoology, University of Manchester, UK

Rebecca is part of the NERC-funded Earth, Atmosphere and Oceans doctoral training programme at the University of Manchester.  She is supervised by Dr Tucker Gilman and is working with Chester Zoo to examine the impact of birdsong evolution on conservation efforts. Her PhD is funded by NERC and Chester Zoo.

“I am a zoologist with a strong interest in animal management within zoos and in animal behaviour, as well as in conservation.  In 2014 – 2015 I joined the Chester Zoo Primate Team as a One Year Intern.  This cemented my desire to work with zoos in my future career as I believe they have a vital role to play in conservation.

“Following my internship, I undertook an MSc at the Royal Veterinary College and ZSL London Zoo where I explored a number of topics in management and conservation. These included conservation interventions, animal behaviour, nutrition, enrichment, human-wildlife conflict, ecosystem health and sustainable use.

“My PhD project at the University of Manchester draws on a number of these areas to examine the evolution of birdsong in zoos and whether this may cause a barrier for conservation efforts, using the Java sparrow as a model.

“Birdsong plays a vital role in mate selection, with females choosing mates based on a variety of song features. As well as individual differences between birds, populations often show distinctive local ‘dialects’. There is good evidence that these dialects can impact female mate choice and promote assortative mating between birds.

“The impact of animal behaviour on conservation has recently emerged as an important area of research. With present rates of extinction, interventions, such as ex-situ breeding and translocations, are becoming vital. These interventions both impact and are impacted by birdsong, making it a useful focus for conservation behaviour research.”


Dr Tucker Gilman (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester)

Dr Leah Williams (Chester Zoo)

Dr Susanne Shultz (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester)

Dr Selvino de Kort (School of Science and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University)



Lewis, R. N., Williams, L. J. & Gilman, R. T. (2020) The uses and implications of avian vocalizations for conservation planning, Conservation Biology, 35(1), 50-63

Lewis, R.N., Chang, Y., Ferguson, A., Clifforde, L., Abeyesinghe, S.M., 2020 . The effect of visitors on the behavour of zoo-housed western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) . Zoo Biology.

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