Cathy Oetegenn

Blog: IWD - Dr Holly Farmer, Research Manager

Posted: 3rd March, 2022

To celebrate the run up to International Women's Day on 8th March, BIAZA are sharing the stories and voices of women from across the BIAZA membership.

Today's blog is from Dr Holly Farmer, Research Manager at Wild Planet Trust. 

I’m the Research Manager for the Wild Planet Trust, I coordinate and manage all zoo-based research conducted at our 2 sites; Paignton and Newquay Zoos. I also lecture for higher education institutions and manage our jointly-run Master’s course in Zoo Conservation Biology with Plymouth University. In addition to my research role, I coordinate the EAZA Ex-situ breeding Programme for Sulawesi crested macaques, which helps to maintain a genetically healthy population of animals within European zoos. I also oversee welfare assessments and behavioural husbandry for the animals at Paignton Zoo.


My academic career started by completing a BSc in Zoology, before moving on to an MSc and PhD in Animal Behaviour at Exeter University. Between my Master’s degree and PhD, I managed a cetacean conservation charity in the Canary Islands. Working abroad for a conservation charity allowed me to learn about in-situ conservation, which really broadened my knowledge base. I then volunteered at Paignton Zoo to gain experience in the field and helped to show my dedication not only to the field, but to the zoo itself. Having gained a PhD, I have been able to lecture students at a HE level and supervise those doing their MSc, so it has opened lots of doors for me to progress in my career.


Nothing beats working with a community of like-minded people, both here at Wild Planet Trust and with BIAZA and EAZA. I’m so passionate about what I do, and being surrounded by people that feel the same way really inspires me.


Day to day, I love managing the breeding programme for Sulawesi macaques. These primates are Critically Endangered, so it’s a real honour to working with zoos from all around Europe to help conserve them. I also get to work with our in-situ partner, Selematkan Yaki, who work to educate communities in Sulawesi and alongside government officials to conserve the species in their native habitat.


What advice do I have for young women looking at a career in conservation? Gain as much experience as you can. Volunteer at zoos, animal shelters, vets, conservation projects, and don’t just focus on exotic animals – working with native species is just as important! Reach out to people you want to work with. Email them, ask for meetings, offer your time and listen to their wisdom. Quite often they’ll guide you on how to gain experience, and just meeting these people helps to get your name known.


Since I started my career, I’ve seen a real shift in management within zoos; I see so many more women in managerial roles across Europe now, and especially here at Wild Planet Trust. It’s really important that our voices are heard, and seeing so many other women in leadership is inspiring to me.


By Dr Holly Farmer, Wild Planet Trust. 

All blogs reflect the views of their author and are not a reflection of BIAZA's positions. 

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