Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan

Research Interests

I apply 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

Developing a scent-based management tool for dingoes and other wild dogs in Australia

Management of dingoes and other wild dogs in Australia is primarily driven by the interests of the livestock industry and is typified by the use of physical barriers and lethal control, at significant cost. There is also increasing understanding that dingoes have cascading benefits on ecosystems. A more nuanced approach, with the aim of protecting livestock while retaining the ecosystem benefits of dingoes across the Australian landscape, is much needed. By collecting, chemically-characterising and experimentally testing the responses of wild dogs to multiple sources of their scent, this project will evaluate the potential for using territorial signals in conservation management. This project is a collaboration with the Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales (Peter Fleming, Paul Meek, Guy Ballard).  (See below for potential honours project)


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.

i-cows: can intimidating eye patterns painted onto cows reduce lion attacks?


A major reason that lions are in decline is that many are killed every day in retaliation for eating livestock. As ambush predators, lions rely on stalking and surprise, so being seen by their prey usually means they abandon their hunt. In rural Botswana I will test whether painting intimidating eye patterns onto cows hides reduces livestock losses. If successful, this inexpensive tool will help to safeguard the lives of lions and the livelihoods of subsistence farmers alike.

Potential Honours projects

The following projects are currently on offer. I am also very open to students designing their own projects that fit with my research interests. Contact me for more information.


1) Chemical and behavioural evaluation of the information in dingo scent-marks (also with A/Prof. Mike Letnic)

This project contributes to evaluating the potential of scent in wild canid management by quantifying the responses of dingoes and other wild dogs to conspecific scent-marks, including those exposed to the environment for varying lengths of time. Behavioural responses will be compared to the information content (chemical composition) of the scents to give an indication of scent longevity and signal function. The project will involve chemical analysis of scents at UNSW and potentially some fieldwork in the wild or zoo environment (recording and evaluating the responses of dingoes to scent). The student will gain skills in lab work and procedures including Gas-Chromatography Mass-Spectrometry, statistical analysis and (potentially) behavioural observations and camera-trapping.

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

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. 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.

3) Behavioural and endocrine responses of captive chimpanzees to the introduction of unfamiliar conspecifics (also with Dr Rebecca Hobbs, Taronga Conservation Society Australia).

Five female chimpanzees, Pan trogolodytes, are being 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. The project will characterize and evaluate glucocorticoid profiles of six resident chimpanzees over the course of the introductions. Complementary behavioural data will also be collected. 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.

4) Platypus stress: evaluation of the effects of river flow regimes on platypus glucocorticoids (with Dr Rebecca Hobbs, Gilad Bino)

This project will take an endocrine approach to assessing the effects of river fragmentation on platypus health. It will characterize and evaluate glucocorticoid profiles of wild platypuses as part of a larger project on river fragmentation and platypus population structure. The aim is to compare endocrine indicators of stress across river systems with varying flow regimes. Faecal collection will be undertaken by collaborators in the field. Hormone assays will be conducted by the student at the Animal Reproduction Laboratory at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, where two 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. 

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:

  • Human-wildlife conflict and solutions;
  • “Problem animal” ecology and management;
  • Animal communication and conservation;
  • Invasive carnivore ecology and management.

Students interested in pursuing an Honours project or MSc/PhD in my areas of interest should contact me directly via email to discuss potential projects. I am especially interested in students wishing to work in human-wildlife conflict.


See also:

Follow me on Twitter: @HWConflict



Hubel, T.Y., Myatt, J.P., Jordan, N.R., Dewhirst, O.P., McNutt, J.W. & Wilson A.M. Additive opportunistic capture explains group hunting benefits in African wild dogs. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms11033.

Hubel, T.Y., Myatt, J.P., Jordan, N.R., Dewhirst, O.P., McNutt, J.W. & Wilson A.M. Energy cost and return for hunting in African wild dogs and cheetahs. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms11034. 

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.

Jordan, N.R., Apps, P.J., Golabek, K.A. & McNutt, J.W. (2016) Pair-specific scents in African wild dogs, Lycaon pictus, and an example of a potential method to identify signals within complex mixtures. Chapter 30, In: Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 13. Ed. BA Schulte, T Goodwin & M Ferkin. New York: D. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. 

Abrahms, B., Jordan, N.R., Golabek, K.A., McNutt, J.W., Wilson, A.M. & Brashares, J.S. (2016) Lessons from integrating behaviour and resource selection: activity-specific responses of African wild dogs to roads. Animal Conservation. DOI: 10.1111/acv.12235.

Pomilia, M.A., McNutt, J.W. & Jordan, N.R. (2015) Ecological predictors of African wild dog ranging patterns in northern Botswana. Journal of Mammalogy. DOI:

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.


Author Date Title Link PDF
Pomilia et al 2015 African wild dog ranging patterns in northern Botswana

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Abrahms et al. 2015 The context of road-use by African wild dogs highlights the importance of considering animal behaviour in conservation planning

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. Click here for full publication.

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