The EASE working group brings together academics and postgraduate research students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds across the University of Exeter (including anthropology, philosophy, sociology, geography, bioscience, psychology and animal behaviour) whose research and teaching interests explore and address human interactions with other living things.
Sam Hurn is Associate Professor in Anthropology and Programme Director for Anthrozoology at the University of Exeter. Sam’s research and teaching cover both social anthropology (the comparative study of human culture and society) and anthrozoology (the study of human interactions with other animals). Sam devised, developed and launched the world’s first MA and PhD programmes in Anthrozoology. Sam has published widely on an array of anthropological and anthrozoological topics arising from in-depth qualitative research. Her research has included fieldwork in Southern Africa (Swaziland and South Africa - investigating rhino poaching, primate conservation and human-wildlife conflict) and Europe (especially Romania, looking at street dog welfare and management; rural Andalusia, Spain and Wales, UK - focussing on domesticated animals, the care and welfare of animals in agricultural production systems, the enrolment of animals in ritual contexts, human kinship with dogs and other companion species, and the ways in which sound impacts on staff, visitors and the otherthanhuman residents at zoos). More recently her research has focussed on end of life care for companion animals, and childhood experiences of grief following companion animal loss. Her research has received funding from National Geographic, the Economic and Social Sciences research council, and the Society for Companion Animal Studies.
Tom is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and a member of EASE. He has a lifelong interest in human–animal interactions and in 2001 made a documentary film about koi keepers and their relationships with their fish. The film is called Fish Have Feelings Too. It is available to view via the Alexander Street Ethnographic Video Online collection and can be purchased through the Royal Anthropological Institute. Tom also has a strong research interest in sound and has written about auditory culture in a wide variety of contexts, including institutions such as hospitals and prisons, but he is also interested in sound as a feature of the environment more widely, and in how human and nonhuman animals interact through sound.
In 2017 he is leading a module on Bioacoustics for the MA in Anthrozoology at the University of Exeter. As well as writing about sound Tom explores the use of sound recording and composition in ethnographic representation. In 2015 he produced and presented a documentary entitled Govindpuri Sound for the BBC World Service. The programme explores the soundscape of the Govindpuri Slums in South Delhi. You can read about and listen to the programme here. He is hoping to bring a sonic perspective to the EASE working group’s metaproject on stray dog management ‘Tails from the Street’.
Tom would be interested in supervising PhD projects relating to human-animal interactions, particularly as manifested through music and sound.
EASE Postdoctoral Research Associate
Alexander has recently completed a PhD in philosophy at Exeter and is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with EASE. His PhD thesis, entitled Growing in Goodness: Towards a Symbiotic Ethics, attempted to consider the way in which a life lived with other living things (more specifically organic smallholding and gardening) can and should constitute a good (if not the best) way to become a wiser person. While Alexander’s main academic background is in philosophy and particularly in ethics, he also has a degree in anthropology and religious studies and prefers to retain an interdisciplinary approach. Alexander’s work mainly concerns animal and environmental ethics with a particular focus on how ethical questions can and should be informed by self-sufficient (self-provision) lifestyles. Much of Alexander’s efforts are spent in attempting to break down boundaries not only between academic disciplines but also between academia and ‘normal life’, the contention being that many important (ethical) questions are best asked and answered through an approach which mixes theory and practice seamlessly and also engages with non-typical literature. To this end, Alexander works in conservation, animal rescue and gardening and views all of these things as an extension of the discipline which has come to be called ‘philosophy as a way of life’.
EASE Postdoctoral Research Associate
Fenella is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with EASE. Her PhD in Anthrozoology was an ethnographic study of symbiotic practices of care performed by co-existing human–canine partnerships in the field of scent detection and chronic illness. While studying for the PhD, she presented papers at the EASE annual conference in Milan, a British Animal Studies Network meeting in Glasgow, a poster at the ISAZ14 conference in Vienna, and papers at ASA 2015 and postgraduate student conferences held at the University of Exeter. Particular interests lie in the consequences of companion animal death and in further understanding non-invasive, pain-free multispecies biomedical interventions and experiences. With a dissertation centred on childhood abuse of animals, she received a B. Psychology in Counselling from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa (2009), and in 2011, a Masters degree in Anthrozoology (University of Wales, Lampeter) relating to virtual and physical memorials assisting socially-isolated individuals, bereaved of a companion animal. She spent several years travelling and working in Namibia as a newspaper sub-editor, and in South Africa studying canine psychology and behaviour, and animal-assisted activities, while caring for dogs and horses in the absence of their human companions.
EASE Postdoctoral Research Associate
Jessica is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with EASE. She is part of the research team on the project Tails from the streets, which uses trans-species ethnography to document, understand and ultimately help to mitigate the ‘stray dog problem’ in a variety of national contexts, beginning with fieldwork in Romania in April 2017. Jess’s doctoral research examined media representations of urban ‘fox attacks’ and, more broadly, issues of human–wildlife conflict through the lens of the sociologies of moral panic and risk. Jess’s research interests include the spatial ontologies of stray, liminal and transgressive animals, human–animal conflict in urban areas, humane wildlife deterrence, Critical Animal Studies, and the ethics and methodologies of participatory action research. Her research has been published in academic books and journals and written about in popular texts, most recently Lucy Jones’s (2016) Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain. Jess has a multi-disciplinary academic background, with a BA (Durham) and MA (Leeds) in Geography, a PhD in Sociology (Exeter) and teaching experience at undergraduate and Masters level in Sociology and Anthropology. Jess currently lectures on the MA Anthrozoology and has previously worked as a freelance translator and animal charity manager. In 2012 Jess co-founded a cross-disciplinary working group called Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society (CPAS) and was awarded the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS) Britches Scholar Award. She was also the Co-Director of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (Europe) and remains a member of the UK Vegan Society Research Advisory Committee.
MA Anthrozoology Programme Lecturer
Astrid’s work criss-crosses Feminist Science Studies, Human–Animal Studies, New Materialisms, and Bio-Deconstruction. She has explored questions of responsibility, care and agency and indeterminacy in scientific knowledge production, new ontologies, the relationship between anthropocentrism and conceptions of time, and questions of environmental justice. Astrid has been particularly interested in scientific research on marine microbes, their performances in/as Harmful Algal Blooms, their deaths and their temporal rhythms. A recent project examines the scientific reconfigurations of life and death through research into microbial suicide. Her work has been published in the journals Social Studies of Science, Environmental Philosophy, differences, and Body & Society. She co-edited (with Sophia Roosth) a special issue of differences titled “Feminist Theory out of Science”, and has written an entry on ‘Microbes’ for a gender studies encyclopaedia. She is currently working on a monograph.
PhD Students and GTAs
- Thomas Aiello
- Luci Attala
- Yancen Diemberger
- Robin Fiore
- Louise Hayward
- Sarah Heaney
- Kris Hill
- Jes Hooper
- Gill Howarth
- Angi Millwood Lacinak
- Sharon Merz
- Sian Moody
- Melani Nardone
- Katherine Heights
- Molly Sumridge
- Michelle Szydlowski
- Emily Stone
- Teresa Tyler
- Yuan Wang
- Tiamat Warda
- Zhuoyuan Zhang
My PhD working title is Civets in Society: Understanding the Human-Animal Interactions within Civet Trades. The aims of my research are to investigate the contextual impact of culture, economy and politics within human-civet interactions, whilst challenging the dualistic discourse between humans ("us") and animals ("them").
Angi Millwood Lacinak
The working title for Angi's Anthrozoology PhD research is 'Investigating the influencers of human perceptions of elephant (Loxodonta africana and Elephas maximus) welfare during elephant-human interactions in zoo settings'. Her MA thesis explored factors that influence elephant participation in human-elephant interactions in a zoo setting. She also researched human perceptions of animal emotional states (and correlated welfare) in an aquarium setting for an applied course. Both studies are a source of inspiration for her PhD.
My PhD research centres on aspects of hunting with dogs in Cyprus. The hunting industry is thriving in Cyprus with the activity being practiced enthusiastically. It receives endorsement and condemnation in equal measures but with recent reports of mass illegal bird trapping, a negative focus has once again turned on the hunting fraternity.
My PhD project is aimed at exploring how to be in communion with domestic dogs, with a concentration on their positive experiences.
The working title for my PhD is “A Multispecies Negotiation of Disease and Decision-Making During a Novel, Eco-Friendly Genetic Modification Project”. My thesis research will examine the knowledges and processes which will shape interspecies negotiation and decision-making during a proposed ‘eco-friendly’ introduction of genetically modified white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) into an island ecology to address Lyme disease.
Dr Thomas Aiello
I am an associate professor of history and African American studies at Valdosta State University in Georgia, USA. Here at Exeter I am working to merge my vocation and avocation by turning my research focus to animal studies.
Robin is currently working on a PhD in Anthrozoology focusing on human wildlife conflict in Kenya. The goal of her research is to determine the main causes of conflict between five focus species (elephants, giraffes, lions, hyenas, and baboons) and the Maasai people of Kenya.
The title of my PhD research is ‘The Cat is Nature’s Beauty’: Ethnography of More-Than-Human Interrelatedness in UK Cat Shows.
My PhD research is exploring human-cat social interactions to understand some of the more unrecognised cat behaviours and the reasons for them, which despite their prevalence seem to remain broadly unnoticed.
I have always been curious of the interactions between humans and the environment and fascinated by inter-species communication.
Michelle’s PhD will focus on framing conservation and care in Nepal. By examining the motivations of different organizations involved in Nepal, she will try to discover a common language and set of goals that can be used to promote future conservation efforts. In addition, her research will focus on the discourse versus practice of caring for orphaned juveniles of various species, including humans.
In 2019 I embarked upon my PhD research, focusing on human-cat relations within urban communities. I am building the foundations of a new career – either as an academic, an educator, or a researcher within a non-profit organisation, dedicated to improving the lives of both human and non-human animals.
For six years, I worked as a self-employed guide dog mobility instructor. My practical experiences during this time opened my eyes to the challenges and hardships which many in the guide dog sector encounter - especially, it could be argued, the guide dogs themselves. Acknowledging these realities is what initially motivated me pursue academia with the hope of contributing to future developments in the sector through research. I embarked on the MA in Anthrozoology at the University of Exeter in 2017 and graduated with distinction in 2019. My PhD research addresses a gap in existing literature on the work-lives of guide dogs and guide dog mobility instructors, as well as the schooling of guide dog teams.
I have often watched wild animals fitted with various identifiers (tags, leg rings), GPS monitors and bio-loggers, and wondered about possible impacts on their behaviour and welfare. This year (2020), I am embarking on research to discover more about the use of these wildlife monitoring devices.
I am an instructor of Anthrozoology at Carroll College and dog behavior consultant in Helena MT. My professional interests focus on primitive/ancient dogs, and behavior modification for dog sports and pet aggression.
I am researching the reintroduction of the wildcat (Felis silvestris) into Devon and exploring practices of care involved in their conservation. Drawing on ideas around ethical conservation and concepts developed within anthrozoology, I aim to pay attention to the entangled lives of wildcats and their spacio-temporal interactions with each other and other species (including humans).
Recently completed PhDs
The Exeter Anthrozoology and Symbiotic Ethics working group has received some funding for a pilot study aimed at exploring the ways in which humans live alongside free roaming dogs. As part of this project, entitled Tails from the Streets’, we are attempting to establish a multi-species workspace where humans and dogs can co-exist and learn from each other. There are numerous reasons for this, including:
- Some team members are canophobic (afraid of dogs). By having friendly dogs in the office we can build a better understanding of dog behaviour and help overcome this fear before embarking on fieldwork with free roaming dogs. One of our hypotheses is that fear of dogs is a key factor which influences the way free roaming dogs are managed. The team are working with a human counsellor and several dog trainers to explore the issues associated with canophobia (in both humans and dogs) and how best to tackle them.
- Having dogs in the office will also enable us to trial different novel methodologies which will be employed in the field, including Qualitative Behavioural Assessments (QBA). Having various individual dogs in the office will mean that behaviours and the social dynamic will vary depending on which dogs are present and this will help when it comes to identifying and recording a wide range of behaviours and interactions in the field.
- While there has been a great deal of research conducted to date which argues for the benefits (to human health and wellbeing) of interacting with dogs, especially in relation to stress reduction, very little has focussed on the canine perspective. By conducting regular QBA in the office environment we will be able to address that oversight and contribute to discussions about the benefits or shortcomings of both multi-species interactions and the inclusion of dogs in the workplace.
Left to right: Bleddyn, Lottie, Annwn, Abi.