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Liam Fennessy & Scott Mitchell plus special guests

Research partner: Zoo’s Victoria – Wildlife Conservation and Science Department




Contemporary Zoo’s occupy a particular role in primary research into animal welfare, species conservation, and the public communication of issues of biodiversity loss and environmental concerns. These activities often require the artful combination of material, informational and technological elements (design) with science to make positive impacts.

Partnered with the Wildlife Conservation and Science Department at Zoo’s Victoria this studio aims to introduce you to the diverse design issues and problems that zoo’s deal with: from ways of making the captive lives of animals more stimulating or less stressful, to the tracking or gathering of bio-metric, locational or interaction data of animals, to new systems for approximating natural conditions inside zoos and to ensuring that animals have opportunities to exercise quite specific behavioural traits that are crucial to breeding programs, release to wild, and their general well-being.

You will develop research capacities in engaging with experts from outside of industrial design (zoologists, animal behaviourists, interpretive designers, conservation scientists, zoo keepers), in field observations, workshops on the use of specific design approaches, and literature reviews to develop testable prototyped design responses to a set of problems and opportunities defined by experts from the Zoo’s Victoria:

These design problems and opportunities are framed around three categories of activity:


  1. Design for Enrichment – products and technologies that increase the diversity of experiences for animals in captivity.
  2. Design for Conservation – products and technologies that assist in the zoos wildlife conservation mandate.
  3. Communications and Interpretive Design – ways of conveying complex information in textual / material / spatial ways to the public about animal conservation, biodiversity and environmental issues.

Your design responses might take various forms, but will focus on application of appropriate technologies including the use of open-source, IOT, sensor and micro-processor technologies, and mechanical, static and communication oriented technologies in the context of wildlife conservation, animal welfare, and public participation (communications). You will produce a fully prototyped and deployable design concept and will test, evaluate and report on the efficacy of you design response based on feedback from experts through an exegetical “ research report” outcome that will accompany prototype outcomes. This report will include technical documentation, an implementation plan, a short literature review, a report on issues and limitations discovered through prototype testing, and a reflection on what you have learned for future design activities.

image: ultrasound activated emu shower designed by Liam Fennessy and Scott Mitchell for Healesville Sanctuary 2014. Photos: Scott Mitchell