CIRCLE (Centre for the Integration of Research, Conservation and Learning)

CIRCLE is a University of York Environment Department centre based at Flamingo Land Resort, North Yorkshire. The aim of CIRCLE is to carry out ground-breaking research that will contribute to the conservation of wild animals and places, and to disseminate the information in a manner that is accessible, interesting and fun. Research by CIRCLE staff includes methods for conserving biodiversity both in the UK and abroad, evaluation of environmental education, and assessing the role of zoos in conservation, animal welfare and learning. CIRCLE also offers highly competitive annual internships, providing early-career researchers with training in research methods, and an opportunity to design, execute, present and report on their own scientific study.


(a) Research

  • Exploring methods for monitoring and conserving biodiversity, and for encouraging everyone to think more about the environment
  • Investigating ways to assess and improve animal welfare
  • Assessing the role of zoos in scientific research, conservation, animal welfare, and learning

(b) Communication

  • Informing policymakers and conservation managers on all research findings to encourage conservation action
  • Contributing information to education programmes for UK and African people and schools
  • Liaising with industry and zoos to improve financial and logistical support for the environment
  • Raising awareness among the general public to improve interest and to encourage action

(c)  Training

  • Offering highly competitive annual research internships, providing early-career scientists with training and experience in research design, execution, analysis, and reporting
  • Providing African villagers with the knowledge and techniques to live sustainably and to benefit financially from biodiversity conservation
  • Training African fieldworkers in ecological and socio-economic methods for monitoring conservation success
  • Advising and training conservation managers on monitoring and understanding ecosystem health and sustainable livelihoods
  • Active encouragement of increasing zoo support for field conservation, through guidance documents, presentations and mentoring.


CIRCLE’s mission is to use scientific evidence to guide biodiversity conservation, animal welfare and public understanding of the natural world.


Our vision is to develop a sustainable future for both wildlife and people.

Programme Approach: Biodiversity for Tomorrow 

We endeavour to carry out ground-breaking research that will contribute to the conservation of wild animals and places. We aim to disseminate research findings in a manner that is accessible, informative, interesting, and fun, so that it has value for researchers, policymakers, managers and EVERYONE. Biodiversity is declining across the world as a result of human activity, and research findings are mostly not considered in practical conservation management. We believe that conservation of biodiversity must take a holistic approach in order to succeed, and hence our research has a broad focus spread across four research themes.

Research Themes

Theme 1: Biodiversity Conservation

(a)    Development of standard procedure for development of biodiversity action plans in zoological gardens (article in review)

(b)   Description of new species of Polyceratocarpus tree (first draft of article complete)

(c)    Description of new species of Acacia tree (data collection underway)

(d)   Development of indicators of conservation success in tropical forest (data collection underway)

(e)   Development of indicators of native conservation success on zoological garden land (beginning September 2013)

(f)     Trial of methods for forest restoration (data collection near complete)

(g)    Experiment on effective methods for reducing bird-strikes on windows.

Theme 2: Environmental Education

(a)    Determination of factors affecting animal sign use by zoo visitors (data collection complete; writing underway)

(b)   Quantification of zoo visitor learning levels from animal signs (data collection underway)

(c)    Evaluation of effectiveness of formal versus informal learning methods for short- and long-term knowledge exchange, and for encouraging environmental action (beginning September 2013)

Theme 3: The Role of Zoos

(a)    Assessment of the quantity and subject of WAZA member scientific publications (data collection underway)

(b)   Quantification of the financial and practical contribution of BIAZA zoos to field conservation (data collection complete; analysis underway)

Theme 4: Animal Welfare

(a)    Determination of the optimal exhibit design for Humboldt penguins (article in review)

(b)   Determination of the optimal exhibit design for flamingos (data collection underway)

(c)    Determination of the optimal exhibit design in scimitar-horned oryx (data collection underway).

Flamingo Land


Udzungwa Forest Project


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