One word that is never far from the agenda today is ‘impact’. Increasingly, Universities are being challenged to demonstrate that research is having positive effects on the health, wealth, or well-being of people and the planet. We will always argue that fundamental curiosity-driven research is also essential, partly since surely it is important (and interesting) to understand how the world works, but also because very often far-reaching impacts come in quite unexpected ways. Below is a sample of some of the ‘impacts’ that have come from research in the Department of Zoology. The diversity is impressive, and shows that research in Zoology, and training the next generation of Biological Science students, really does have impact. Peter Holland (Head of Zoology)
Combatting a serious cause of meningitis in the UK and Africa
Research in the Department of Zoology has led to an improved understanding of the long-term impact of vaccines on meningococcal disease, and played a central role in demonstrating the effectiveness of a new vaccine in the sub-Saharan Meningitis Belt in Africa.
Using bees to deter crop-raiding elephants
Research identifying that elephants are afraid of bees has led to a simple but highly effective solution to keep elephants off farmland: perimeter fences hung with beehives.
Transforming the welfare of commercially-reared poultry
Professor Marian Stamp Dawkins’ research into the factors affecting the welfare of chickens and ducks reared for meat has led to direct improvements in the welfare standards of billions of farmed birds.
Defeating dengue with GM mosquitoes
Dengue fever affects 100 million people, causes 20,000 deaths a year, and there’s no known vaccine - but Oxford researchers are genetically modifying mosquitoes to eradicate it.
Using maps to defeat malaria
The Malaria Atlas Project creates sophisticated models of global malaria distribution that inform the planning and policy decisions of national governments and international agencies.
NaturalMotion: from neural research to Grand Theft Auto
Research into how the human nervous system controls body movement led to the spin out of NaturalMotion, a company that has seen enormous success in the field of games software, resulting in its sale in February 2014 for over $527m.
Super-materials from silk
Researchers at the University of Oxford are looking to the natural world to create a new breed of exotic materials – and the applications seem limitless.
WildCRU: balancing the needs of conservation and local people
WildCRU, the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in the Department of Zoology, was the first university-based conservation research unit in Europe. Much of its work focuses on delivering practical solutions to conservation problems through original scientific research.