Research


Professor Stephen Harris


My research has concentrated on the ecology and population demography of mammals, and particularly the management of mammal populations. My first line of investigation was on urban carnivores (mainly foxes and badgers), and in particular the problems these species would pose in the event of a rabies epizooty. The results produced from this work have been used to develop a variety of models to extrapolate the work to all the urban areas in Britain, and in particular to simulate the pattern of rabies spread in any urban fox population in Britain. These models have allowed the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to develop a rabies control strategy for urban areas, and the computer models and manuals produced from these studies have been adopted by Defra and form the central part of their rabies control strategy.

Recently, this work has expanded to look at the problems of bovine tuberculosis in badgers. This has involved the development of novel techniques to look at the possible modes of transmission of Mycobacterium bovis from badgers to cattle, and the analysis of data on badger populations in TB areas. In addition I have developed a census technique to estimate badger populations in Britain, so that future population changes can be first modelled in relation to predicted land use changes, and in future years monitored to test the predictions. This work has included the development of land use census techniques, and similar census methods have been applied to bats and hares. Future research will include an expansion of this work to provide an assessment of the size, status and population pressures on many British mammals, to provide a conservation and management strategy for the next century.

I have also studied herbivore communities, particularly resource utilisation, habitat partitioning and niche overlap. The first study was on deer and lagomorphs in a forest in Suffolk, and this work has been continuing for the last ten years. Much of it will be written up shortly. A similar approach has been applied to study gorillas, elephants, buffalos and antelopes in a National Park in Rwanda, and several students conducted their fieldwork in Rwanda.

My research has expanded to include work DNA-fingerprinting of both foxes and muntjac. The work on foxes is examining the on social organisation of carnivore populations, especially current theories on the evolution of mammal social systems, and the work on muntjac has looked at the loss of genetic diversity in populations with a small founder stock.

In addition to these main lines of investigation, I intend to remain responsive to requests to take on a wide range of new projects that are generated by potential students themselves. I regularly receive many requests from British and overseas students to supervise projects they have designed, or to help them raise funds for a particular project that they would like to do. A recent example of this are one student's work on managing mongooses on Mauritius. Such initiatives from students are important in helping to maintain interest and diversity within the research group.

Contact details

Professor Stephen Harris
Mammal Research Unit
School of Biological Sciences
University of Bristol
Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 1UG, U.K.

Telephone: 0117 9287479
Fax: 0117 3317985
Email: Stephen Harris