CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Steven D. Zink

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

Lloyd Davidson


The researcher investigated whether frontline, tacit knowledge about zoo animals was captured by zookeepers, curators, researchers, veterinarians, and outside researchers and, if so, whether and how it was transmitted into the scholarly literature. A bibliometric analysis was done of a representative sample of peer-reviewed zoo research articles published between 1973 and 200 I. This was extended to grey literature and acknowledgements statements from the same period to obtain a more global picture.

Research participants were evaluated in terms of their contributions (journal articles, conference papers, or acknowledged research assistance). Changes were mapped chronologically and by profess ion. The participation of keepers and curators was of particular interest, as was the role of tacit knowledge and its intergenerational transmission. The role of outside researchers in zoos was examined, as was the use of zoo research by the wider scientific community, as measured through citations by non-zoo authors. Interviews with a cross-section of zoo research personnel completed the portrait of zoo research during these decades.

The study found that keepers' university training did not change their status as invisible research assistants and inter professional tensions remained high, despite higher educational levels among keepers and curators. The rise in female research participants was not proportional to the shift from mainly male to mainly female staff over time. Only a tiny percentage of zoo research was heavily cited by outside researchers. Zoo biology showed some signs of becoming an academic discipline, but continued to rely heavily on tacit knowledge. Outside collaborators quickly lost interest in zoos, due to numerous obstacles.

The study concluded that an institution's research productivity was a function of leadership, rather than size, budget or number of personnel. Minimizing the role of tacit knowledge in favor of scientific research area hurt the transmission of invaluable oral folklore, particularly among keepers. It was recommended that zoos capture their tacit knowledge base to meet their conservation goals more efficiently and respond more effectively to critics of zoos' scientific approach. Finally, mentoring programs would enable more staff to participate in research and publishing.

  Link to NovaCat