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  • Project and Placement Students

    The Discovery and Learning department at Edinburgh Zoo offers placement opportunities and undergraduate projects at the zoo for student researchers over the age of 16 who are studying Education or the Social Sciences.

    Please note: If you are interested in placements or  research projects in animal, animal management, or conservation please visit and contact our Living Collections Department - on or

    Placement Students:

    We will offer three placement windows each calendar year for a limited number of students who would like work experience in either the Education or the Interpretation teams within Discovery and Learning. The placement blocks are as follows:

    -          January-March

    -          June-August.

    -          October-December.

    Students must have a project proposal in mind when they apply and must be able to commit to a minimum of 4 weeks and maximum of 12 weeks. Student projects should be something that will be of benefit to RZSS as well as to the student’s training and development. Students will also be required to attend one induction day prior to commencing their placement (there are 3 organised per year) and agree to all the terms and conditions and safety procedures outlined in our induction.

    Undergraduate Project Students:

    This category is for students who would like to obtain a pass to come on site to conduct research in education or the social sciences as part of their degree programme but are not seeking work placements within our department and will not require desk space in an office. Project students will be required to sign in and out when they are on site and will provide the zoo with the results of their project upon completion. Students will also be required to attend one induction day prior to commencing their project and agree to all the terms and conditions and safety procedures outlined in our induction.

    They are also required to pay £35 for their research pass which provides unlimited access to the site for the duration of their project.

    A list of some project ideas will be posted in our Project ideas section below. All projects must have ethical approval from your institution, with evidence provided to us before research can commence. You will also be invited to participated in a student showcase that we run to highlight the research work that is carried out at the zoo. Project student numbers will be monitored throughout the year and may be capped at various times to manage impact on animal welfare and visitor experience.

    Induction Days:

    All students wishing to come to Edinburgh Zoo for a work placement or to conduct a research project must attend one of our induction days. The induction programme will cover, health and safety and security procedures, your responsibilities as a researcher at the zoo, the RZSS confidentiality agreement, the role of the zoo, and a guided tour of our facilities. Our three induction days will take place in early January, early June, and either late September or early October (dates will be specified for each year closer to the time).

    How to Apply

    To apply for a project or placement at the Zoo, please fill out the application form below (coming soon). Depending on demand and the nature of your proposed project you may be asked to attend an interview. For any queries, please contact .

    We will review applications on a monthly basis and will attempt to respond to you within 5 weeks of your application.

    • Project Ideas

      Education and Social Sciences Tertiary Projects List

      The Discovery and Learning department at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park) are eager to enhance their understanding of the power of conservation education in influencing behaviour change. To this end there are a number of research areas which we are keen to explore and would welcome notes of interest in any of the following areas from undergraduate or postgraduate students.

      Formal education

      ·         Can a zoo visit increase public awareness of conservation issues?

      ·         Can a session with the Discovery and Learning team increase public awareness of conservation issues?

      ·         Do close encounters between the public and animals help to facilitate a move from empathy to action for visitors?

      ·         Ruby and Zed (our new characters)? Are they helping to engage children with RZSS?

      ·         What is the effect of using learning technology in conservation education (both inside and outside)? Does it increase engagement? Nature Vs technology – conflicting interests or an enhancement tool that offers an opportunity to engage with new audiences?

      ·         Developing pre- and post-lesson resources for our rainforest session to evaluate learning during multiple point of contact (rather than single visit). What is the benefit?

      ·         Teaching observation studies: How are teachers engaging with students? how effective are different teaching styles? what types of questions are asked? (are teacher’s questions open or closed? Are children repeating the same questions or have they been attentive to other questions? Are questions original? Are questions on topic?)

      ·         How can we incorporate learning technology into a zoo environment? Recommendations and new developments/initiatives?

      ·         Observational studies of intensive contact over summer programmes

      ·         Observational studies of extended educational contact (CAT programme and ZEBRA)

      ·         Behavioural attitude changes: Do classes prefer outdoor learning, environmental work, recycling etc. after a zoo session?

      ·         Evaluating our Discovering Animals lesson. Do students score higher when they take the lesson immediately upon arrival or after they have been around the zoo? Could a pre-lesson tour help them gain more from the lesson?

      ·         Does group size affect scores in our Discovering Animals session?

      ·         Evaluate how feelings toward zoos change between entering and leaving one of our sessions? Using evaluation things like those buttons at cafes and airport security.

      ·         Analysing summer programme evaluation results

      ·         Developing value-added public engagement activities for volunteer manned ‘Discovery Dens’ on the themes of Rainforests, Climate Change, and Wildlife Crime


      Graphic Design

      ·         Design graphics for new zoo sleepover signage (tent platforms, welcome sign, logo).

      ·         Design graphics for conservation campaign



      ·         Design interpretation signs for new enclosures

      ·         Study of playpark learning and use

      ·         Observational study of how people are engaging with interpretation material around the zoo.

      ·         How would digital elements change the level of engagement with interpretation onsite?


      ·         Create animation video of conservation campaign, conservation story to be used as an informative video at animal enclosure.


      ·         Create mural designed to accompany an enclosure

      ·         Conservation graffiti festival

      ·         Create a bank of stock images which specifically meet the needs of educational marketing

      Creative Writing

      ·         Write a children’s story about RZSS/Edinburgh Zoo that can be used for new nursery programme


      ·         Illustrate images for interpretation signs

      ·         Work with interpretation to illustrate stories about Ruby and Zed


      ·         Create footage for use in a variety of different arenas; in school lessons, for interpretation and online

      ·         Create a short film for marketing purposes which specifically advertises the educational value of RZSS to different audiences

      Performance (drama, dance, props, make up, music)

      ·         Prepare and perform an appropriate performance for a zoo environment for multiple audiences of differing age ranges

      ·         Create a performance appropriate for school children to learn and deliver themselves which conveys the key conservation messages of RZSS


      ·         Enhance the dedicated RZSS education social media channels with innovative content

      Business and marketing

      ·         Design and implement an effective booking procedure for school lessons across both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park

      ·         Create a unique marketing campaign aimed at encouraging teachers to see RZSS as an amazing resource for use across the curriculum

      Tourism, events and hospitality

      ·         Identify and evaluate an exciting educational event across RZSS which effectively balances conservation and commercial needs

      ·         Developing a youth volunteer programme within a visitor attraction – challenges, barriers and recommendations


      • Time travel. Is it possible? It would be interesting to approach this from the view of ‘if we travelled back in time could we reverse climate change and stop animals from going extinct’
      • How to ask good questions? Can we train ourselves to ask better questions? Do we ask the correct questions in zoos? How do we ask questions which make people debate and rethink their behaviour?
      • How can we measure changes in knowledge… - this is of particular interest as it’s almost impossible to measure the change in knowledge (and subsequently change in behaviour) of the children we engage with over a short period of time. Our latest project which aims to partner with a local primary school aims to help us establish this over a longer period of time but the knowledge to support this project would be invaluable.
      • Free will – is it compatible with modern neuroscience? Are we morally responsible for our actions? This would be a great link to peoples’ behavioural choices in relation to conservation, sustainability etc.


      • What makes a good romantic relationship? Might be fun to look at whether any of the results could be applied to pairings in nature and the subsequent success of breeding? (More of an animal project than Discovery and Learning)
      • Prejudices, social identities and group behaviour – two possible aspects; one in relation to animal groups and a comparative study, the second in relation to groups who don’t traditionally engage with Zoos and how this information could be used to more effectively engage those groups in conservation (namely BAME, deaf communities and so on)
      • Attitudes to animals (no further explanation required!)
      • Child development – how do children make decisions about their behaviour in relation to conservation
      • Statistics – good ways and bad ways of measuring impact in zoos


      • How did human language evolve? How did animals’ “language2 evolve? (More of an animal project than Discovery and Learning)
      • Scots – modern day usage and its history. Nice link to Scottish wildlife
      • Using more than one language – a bilingual approach to conservation as we are trying to encourage through our science in the language class programme
      • Interaction between tonal languages and musical pitch in singing – there may be a link to our Beyond the Panda programme that teaches Chinese to children


      Any further suggestions from other areas of the social sciences are also welcome and we would be particularly interested in inter-disciplinary projects which combine any number of the areas above. Animal science related project ideas are dealt with by our Living Collections department and more details can be found on our website.

      • Conservation Researchers

        If you are looking to conduct animal conservation research visit our conservation research page:

        • Project Submission

          Submit a copy of your project or placement project here

        • Student Placement Forum

          This space can be used to engage with other placement students, ask questions and share knowledge.