Dr Neil Jordan
Field of Research: 
Conservation biology, animal communication, Human-wildlife conflict
Contact details:

Research Interests & Current Projects

My research philosophy lies in applying behavioural ecology to conservation management. My work has focused on scent communication in wild mammals, and recently in its application to managing carnivore movements. I am interested in the ecology and behavior of predators in human- or livestock-dominated areas, and in applying this knowledge to develop and evaluate tools to reduce human-wildlife conflict. While not limited to predators, my research interests are predator-heavy, which reflects both their importance as ‘problem’ animals (native and invasive), and the key role that they play in trophic cascades.

Current projects

African large carnivore behaviour and conservation (Okavango Delta, Botswana)

I currently conduct field research at the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust’s long-running large predator research camp on the fringes of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site. My work focuses on developing and testing potential tools to manage the conflict between large carnivores and livestock. One aspect of this work focuses on the scent-marking behaviour African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), and whether synthetic mimics of these signals can be used to manage their ranging behaviour and reduce human-wildlife conflict. I am also developing a research programme to investigate the ecology and behavior of large carnivores in livestock areas, principally lions (Panthera leo) and leopards (P. pardus), and in applying this knowledge to develop and evaluate low-cost, locally-feasible, preventative tools to reduce livestock losses.

Future research

Over the next few years, a major focus of my work will be developing a conservation research programme within Australian ecosystems. I am particularly interested in conducting and supervising work that can be applied to the development, or directly tests the efficacy, of potential human-wildlife conflict mitigation tools. As a research fellow at Taronga Conservation Society, I am also interested in conducting research beneficial to their captive collection and conservation research strategy.

Current areas of interest include:

  • Animal communication and conservation;
  • “Problem animal” ecology and management;
  • Human-wildlife conflict and solutions;
  • Invasive carnivore ecology and management;
  • Conservation endocrinology (including remote detection of wildlife health and welfare).

Potential students

Students interested in pursuing an Honours project or PhD in my areas of interest should contact me via email to discuss potential projects. I am especially interested in students wishing to work with captive populations or “problem” animals (native and introduced) in Australia.

Potential PhD projects

I am currently advertising two potential PhD projects in Botswana, as listed below. For both projects, the students would be required to acquire additional funding for equipment and other field work expenses. Click here for more details. Application deadline is 1st February 2016.

A) Livestock-carnivore conflict in a landscape of risk

This project would be undertaken at the wildlife-livestock interface in northern Botswana, and aims to investigate the relative movements of carnivores, people and livestock within this shared landscape of risk. A key emphasis is the collection of simultaneous movement and activity data from large carnivores and cattle, and using this to evaluate established and novel conflict-mitigation techniques. The project will contribute to developing coexistence strategies between livestock and large carnivores.

B) Lion communication as a potential conservation tool

This project will investigate whether playbacks of lion vocalisations and/or presentations of lion scents could be used to reduce livestock depredation by simulating territorial occupation at the wildlife-livestock interface in northern Botswana. Lion signals will be manipulated and distributed to assess the movement responses of large carnivores and livestock using a combination of direct observations, spoor surveys and GPS collar data.

Potential Honours projects

The following potential Honours projects are being offered, but I am also very open to students designing their own projects that fit with my research interests.

A)   Activity of African large carnivores in a livestock-dominated environment

Synopsis:Fundamental information on predator activity and behaviour in livestock-dominated areas is an essential step in predicting and preventing human-wildlife conflict. While much is known of large-carnivore ecology within protected areas, collecting equivalent data from (potential and actual) conflict animals is challenging due both to the inherent wariness of these individual animals and a lack of tolerance from livestock owners. Using existing data from remote GPS and activity-logging collars fitted to members of the African large carnivore guild (African wild dog, lion, cheetah, spotted hyaena) at the livestock-wildlife interface in northern Botswana, this (desk-based) project will compare the activity patterns of large carnivores in livestock-dominated versus wildlife-dominated areas.

Aims:This project will compare the activity patterns of large carnivores in livestock-dominated versus wildlife-dominated areas using an existing database of GPS and activity data from collars fitted to members of the African large carnivore guild. Possible avenues of research include evaluation and comparison of daily step-lengths, activity patterns and, potentially, remote identification of kill-sites (by identifying signatures in GPS and activity data from observed kill-sites). The student will gain skills in data extraction, processing, basic GIS (likely using R), and statistical analysis.

B)   Social stress: behavioural and endocrine responses of captive chimpanzees to the introduction of unfamiliar conspecifics

This project will be co-supervised by Dr Rebecca Hobbs, Reproductive Biologist, Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

Synopsis: Five female chimpanzees, Pan trogolodytes, will be gradually introduced to the established group at Taronga zoo in Sydney, beginning in November 2015. This project will characterize and evaluate any potential impacts of this introduction on the resident group. The project is particularly focused on characterizing and measuring stress, through changes in both the behaviour and hormone profiles of members of the resident group.

Aims:This project will characterize and evaluate glucocorticoid profiles of six resident chimpanzees over the course of an introduction of three unfamiliar individuals to the group at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Complementary behavioural data will also be collected. Behavioural and faecal collection is already underway, but the student will be required to contribute to behavioural data collection. Hormone assays will be conducted by the student at the Animal Reproduction laboratory at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, where both supervisors are based, and where the student will be trained in the relevant procedures. The student will be required to spend a minimum of 8-weeks in Dubbo for this work, and will be responsible for finding and funding their own accommodation while there.


Pomilia, Matthew A., Weldon McNutt, J., and Jordan, N.R. 2015. Ecological predictors of African wild dog ranging patterns in northern Botswana. Journal of Mammalogy, doi: 10.1093/jmammal/gyv130

Summary: "African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are endangered social predators, and their risk of going extinct is closely related to their wide-ranging behaviour. Despite this, we still know little about what affects how far they range. Using GPS-collars to record the locations of packs over 3 years in northern Botswana, we found average pack home ranges (739 km2) and daily distances travelled (8.5km) that were larger and longer than elsewhere. We also found that although packs travelled similar daily distances in search of food throughout the year, packs covered only about ¼ of their annual range during their denning season. At other times of year, the number of pups travelling with the pack affected how far they travelled. Larger litters meant less movement, possibly because adults spent more time ‘shepherding’ pups. Interestingly then, while pup survival may reduce ranging and reduce adult mortality that is usually associated with long-distance movements or ranging, reduced ranging in farming areas may overly burden individual farmers and possibly also increase mortality risk. Wild dogs really are caught between a rock and a hard place."

Abrahms, B., Jordan, N. R., Golabek, K. A., McNutt, J. W., Wilson, A. M., & Brashares, J. S. 2015. Lessons from integrating behaviour and resource selection: activity‐specific responses of African wild dogs to roads. Animal Conservation.

Summary: Roads are among the most widespread forms of landscape alteration globally, so effective conservation planning requires an understanding of how they can affect animal movement. Using novel GPS collar technology we found that the response to roads by endangered African wild dogs, Lycaon pictus, varied with behaviour as well as with habitat. African wild dogs selected roads when travelling, ignored them when running (mostly hunting) and avoided roads when resting. Road-use increased in denser habitats, suggesting that roads may enhance wild dog movement through the landscape. Overall, this work highlights the importance of animal behaviour in conservation planning. 

Jordan, N.R., Apps, P.J., Golabek, K.A. & McNutt, J.W. 2014. Top marks for top dogs: Tandem marking and pair-bond advertisement in African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus). Animal Behaviour 88, 211-217.

Apps, P., Mmualefe, L., Jordan, N.R., Golabek, K.A. & McNutt, J.W. 2014. The “tomcat compound” 3-mercapto-3-methylbutanol occurs in the urine of free-ranging leopards but not in African lions or cheetahs. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 53, 17-19.

Jordan, N.R., Golabek, K.A., Apps, P.J., Gilfillan, G.D. & McNutt, J.W. 2013. Scent-mark identification and scent-marking behaviour in African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus). Ethology 119, 1-9.

Nichols, H., Jordan, N.R., Jamie, G., Cant, M. & Hoffman, J. 2012. Fine-scale spatiotemporal patterns of genetic variation reflect budding dispersal coupled with strong natal philopatry in a cooperatively breeding mammal Molecular Ecology 21, 5348-5362.

Jordan, N.R., Messenger, J.E., Turner, P., Birks, J.D.S., Croose, E. & O'Reilly, C. 2012. Molecular comparison of historical and contemporary pine marten (Martes martes) populations in the British Isles: evidence of differing origins and fates. Conservation Genetics 13, 1195- 1212.

Powell, R.A., Lewis, J C., Slough, B. G., Brainerd, S.M., Jordan, N.R., Abramov, A.V., Monakhov, V.,  Zollner, P. &  Murakami, T. 2012. Evaluating translocations of martens, sables and fishers: Testing model predictions with field data. In: Biology and conservation of martens, sables and fishers: a new synthesis. Ed. KB Aubry, WJ Zielinski, MG Raphael, G Proulx, SW Buskirk. Cornell University Press. Chapter 6, pp. 93-137.

Jordan, N.R. 2011. Strategy for restoring the pine marten to England and Wales. Report published by The Vincent Wildlife Trust.

Jordan, N.R., Manser, M.B., Mwanguhya, F., Kyabulima, S., Rüedi, P. & Cant, M.A. 2011. Scent marking in wild banded mongooses: 1. Sex specific scents and over-marking. Animal Behaviour 81, 31-42.

Jordan, N.R., Mwanguhya, F., Furrer, R.D., Kyabulima, S., Rüedi, P. & Cant, M.A. 2011. Scent marking in wild banded mongooses: 2. Intrasexual over-marking and competition between males. Animal Behaviour 81, 43-50.

Jordan, N.R., Mwanguhya, F., Kyabulima, S., Rüedi, P. Hodge, S.J. & Cant, M.A. 2011. Scent marking in wild banded mongooses: 3. Intrasexual over-marking in females. Animal Behaviour 81, 51-60.

Jordan, N.R., Mwanguhya, F., Kyabulima, S., Rüedi, P. & Cant, M.A. 2010. Scent marking within and between groups of wild banded mongooses. Journal of Zoology 280, 72-83.

Golabek, K.A., Jordan, N.R. & Clutton-Brock, T.H. 2008. Radiocollars do not affect the survival or foraging behaviour of wild meerkats. Journal of Zoology 274, 248-253.

Jordan, N.R. 2007. Scent marking investment is determined by sex and breeding status in meerkats. Animal Behaviour 74, 531-540.

Jordan, N.R., Cherry, M.I. & Manser, M.B. 2007. Latrine distribution and patterns of use by wild meerkats: implications for territory and mate defence. Animal Behaviour 73, 613-622.

Clutton-Brock, T.H., Hodge, S.J., Spong, G., Russell, A.F., Jordan, N.R., Bennett, N.C., Sharpe, L.L. & Manser, M.B. 2006. Intrasexual competition and sexual selection in cooperative mammals. Nature 444, 1065-1068.

Russell, A.F., Young, A.J., Spong, G., Jordan, N.R. & Clutton-Brock, T.H. 2006. Helpers increase the reproductive potential of offspring in cooperative meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 274, 513-520.

Carlson, A.A., Russell, A.F., Young, A.J., Jordan, N.R, McNeilly, A.S., Parlow, A.F. & Clutton-Brock, T.H. 2006. Elevated prolactin levels immediately precede decisions to babysit by male meerkat helpers. Hormones and Behaviour 50, 94-100.

Carlson, A.A., Manser, M.B., Young, A.J., Russell, A.F., Jordan, N.R, McNeilly, A.S. & Clutton-Brock, T H. 2006. Cortisol levels are positively associated with pup-feeding rates in male meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 273, 571-577.

Clutton-Brock, T.H., Russell, A.F., Sharpe, L.L. & Jordan, N.R. 2005. 'False-feeding' and aggression in meerkat societies. Animal Behaviour 69, 1273-1284.

Russell, A.F., Carlson, A.A., McIlrath, G.M., Jordan, N.R & Clutton-Brock, T.H. 2004. Adaptive size modification by dominant female meerkats. Evolution 58, 1600-1607.

Plowman, A.B., Jordan, N.R, Anderson, N., Condon, E. & Fraser, O. 2004. Welfare implications of captive primate population management: behavioural and psycho-social effects of female-based contraception, oestrous and male removal in hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas). Applied Animal Behaviour Science 90, 155-165.