Postgraduate members

PhD Candidate, School of Geosciences
I am member of an international research team working on the project “Caring for Thoroughbreds: Addressing social, economic and welfare issues in international horse racing”. This research project is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) through their Discovery Project scheme. I am holding a postgraduate scholarship since July 2013 offered as part of this project to undertake doctoral studies. “Caring for Thoroughbreds” is built on the premise that the thoroughbred breeding and racing industry is of economic, social and cultural importance in Australia and in our international study locations. It is situated within the interdisciplinary field of human-animal studies and brings together geographical, veterinary and economic approaches to address research questions pertaining to the care of thoroughbreds and the future of racing. The research explores the range of values that inform or question activities such as jumps racing, the use of whips, the racing of young horses and the post-racing career of thoroughbreds. With my background in capacity building for sustainability I bring a new perspective to this research project. I am specifically interested in extending the sustainability discourse to include all animals, and to explore the usefulness of applying sustainability language to human-animal relationships. In the first part of my research, I am investigating where the discourse of sustainability studies and animal studies intersect, and where and why they collide. I am proposing an alternative framework to include all animals into the sustainability transition. In the next step, I apply this framework to racing horses in particular to explore current practices, value systems and controversies around this realm of the human-animal interaction, and its future possibilities – or impossibilities. More detail and updates of my work can be found here:

Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, PhD Candidate
Thesis: The Anatomy of Contact: Fat, Hair, Skin and Bones; A Biopoietics of Postindustrial Imperialism.
A contribution to feminist postcolonial criticism, my work considers the paradigm of contact within slippery imperial registers. It does so by reflecting on the politics of contiguity between bodies, histories, epistemological commitments and relations of power through the political agencies of human fat, hair, skin and bones. Connected at the site of the body, while also dispersing through meaning and different histories of exchange, these widely industrialized body parts signal specific imperial histories and persistent conditions of imperialist authority, ranging from neoliberal violence in Mexico, to invisible histories of feminized, Third World labour in India, selective memory/alization, historical resonance and ethnic contagion in the US, and Indigenous dispossession and assimilation in the post-settler colony of Australia. The existential-ontological ambiguities of fat, hair, skin and bones as commodity, museum and art objects lend themselves to unpacking the leaky borders between matter and culture, desire and repulsion, production and consumption, humanity and inhumanity, as well as life and death within cultures of imperialism, the latter being largely based on the sums of the deadened and, subsequently, on the calculus of the animalized. Working to mistranslate traditional readings of poietic creativity through a conceptual framework I call imperial biopoiesis, my project seeks to reposition deadened, dehumanized anatomies as being fundamental to shaping new interpretative terrain about what counts as vital (theoretical) matter to postcolonial readings of contemporary imperial relations. Admittedly focussing on the radical relationality/imperial biopoietics of human bodies-histories, subjugation and resistance, I am now looking to expand my research on imperial biopoietic networks vis-à-vis my ‘Canadian Bacon’ project, which explores the connections between human and animal histories of colonization in Canada, expressly, the valorization of Canadian settler identity and colonial history in Toronto, which entwine with nationalist discourse, yoked into Canada’s love of the other white meat.

CPA BSc (Hons) Ass Dip ES
PhD Candidate, Veterinary Science

Melanie has just commenced a research PhD in the area of Animal Behaviour and Welfare entitled "The effect of rider technique and training apparatus on the welfare of horses and the safety of riders and handlers". She will be examining the rein tensions currently employed by riders of horses across a number of competition disciplines, the noseband pressures applied by commercially available nosebands and the effect of the tightness of nosebands on the welfare of the horse. She will also be reviewing the learning theory knowledge imparted by various training manuals on the market.

Sydney College of the Arts
Commenced PhD in Fine Art at Sydney College of the Arts July 2011. Madeleine is a sculptor and installation artist, with a background in wildlife research. Her research project draws upon expertise in fine art and animal studies, and is concerned with: A phenomenological fine art based inquiry into human-horse communication historically and into the contemporary era. Through this research project Madeleine intends to develop art-based theory and practice for expression of new 'ways of knowing' animals for contemporary applications (e.g. multi-media/medium installations). The primary research subject is the horse, and hence the interactions of horse and human. The significance of this work is in the application of the ‘eye’ of contemporary art theory to a classical and archaic topic ¬ that of the horse-human relationship. There evidence of a fundamental intuitive link between horse and human, a phenomenon that Madeleine will explore through fine art practice.

Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, PhD Candidate

Thesis Title: "Departing from Derrida: Poetico-Literary Hospitality and the Animal"
Thesis Project: My project explicates and exploits Derrida's concept of an impossible hospitality via close readings of a number of diverse literary texts. The particular form of hospitality I enjoin, which I situate at the uncertain intersection between literature and philosophy and term a 'Poetico-Literary Hospitality', invokes the troubling and yet productive poetics of an undecidable subject. This very 'trembling subject' is, I contend, to be discovered in both the figure of the animal and the rhetorical function of the animetaphor and is thus implicated in Derrida's late turn to the animal; a turn which, crucially, confounds hierarchy and taxonomy by putting the priority of the 'human' into question.

Department of Sociology and Social Policy, PhD Candidate
My project explores the how human and non-human lives are produced – historically, materially and socially – in the field of xenotransplantation (animal to human transplantation). The project looks at the politics and materialisation of multispecies life from various overlapping areas of discourse and practice, including: Emerging Infectious Diseases and the governance of xenotransplantation; ethics and the use of animals as sources of live biological fragments; and the biotechnologies involved in xenotransplantation: from immunology to genetic engineering. It also seeks to bring to the fore knowledges that may have been excluded from the field, such as ethology and animal cognition.

Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, Mphil student
Her research "Saving Lives in Wasted Places: Volunteering Experiences in Public Animal Shelters in Taiwan" focuses on volunteers who work in public animal shelters in Taiwan. The research aims to explore the practices of volunteers and how these relate to their belief system, the institutional rules, the shelter environment and the human-animal interaction. In the public's view, the inconvenient locations, uncomfortable environment and the high rate of euthanasia render public animal shelters as the last resort for stray animals. In this context, the research analyzes the participation of volunteers with following questions: what beliefs motivate them, how they practice the rules and how the strategies they develop in the shelter affect the organizational culture. The project examines the institutional norm resulting from the public policy and the control of stray animals and opportunities brought by the practices of volunteers.

English, PhD Candidate

This project explores literary and cultural responses to non-human animals in early nineteenth-century Britain, with a particular focus on the lively relationship between observational field biology and natural history poetics. Also under especial consideration is the emergence of biodiversity as a concept and the way in which this impacted on literary discourse. It will be suggested that the burgeoning understanding of both animal communities and individual organisms displayed in Romantic period writing was part of a broader cultural shift towards more empathetic and responsive rhetorical and scientific practices in regards to non-human life.
Current interests include: Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Dorothy Wordsworth; John Clare; eighteenth and nineteenth-century nature journals; human/animal communication; zoos; twentieth-century ethological writing (Jane Goodall, Konrad Lorenz, Rachel Carson, David Attenborough, and Barry Lopez).

Grad.Dip. Animal Chiropractic, Grad. Cert. Business Management
Post Grad. Dip. Industrial Relations.
PhD. Student, Equitation Science
University of Sydney
Associate Australian Equine Behaviour Centre
This multidisciplinary collaborative project addresses the urgent need for a scientific approach to training the ridden horse so as to enhance the welfare of horses and rider safety. The main aim of this project is to measure the communication between the horse and rider so that we can understand the training and learning processes that go into riding a horse better (and safer). This involves trying to measure from the horse’s perception what cues the rider is applying. The equipment being developed and applied will open up a whole new field of discovery and diagnostics from rider position and saddle fit to effectiveness of treatment.

LLM Candidate, Sydney Law School

Bethany completed a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Hons) and a Bachelor of Development Studies at the University of Adelaide. Bethany is currently undertaking a Master of Laws (by Research) at Sydney Law School. Her thesis is titled ‘Common animal husbandry practices: Should they be immune from the law?’. The current model codes of practice for the welfare of animals are being converted into Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. Bethany will examine the development and enforcement of these standards and guidelines and determine whether these processes are consistent with the fundamental principles of the rule of law.

History, PhD Candidate

Deaf adders and dumb animals: reading vivisection in the colonial antipodes
Project description: In examining the history of research into venomous Australian animals and their toxins, Peter Hobbins is also tracing the shifting agency and moral status afforded to indigenous wildlife from 1770 to 1914. He is concerned with the ways in which scientific practices, technologies and discourses - including vivisection, immunology, evolutionary theory and clinical medicine - have effected changes in both lay and biomedical relationships with venomous fauna. Peter is particularly interested in venoms themselves, both on account of their unstable status as animal/non-animal material, and as a critical yet largely unexplored site for interspecies exchange.

Department of Studies in Religion, PhD Candidate

George’s research aims to rethink the points of correlation between the academic study of religion and that of materiality, material culture, and the nonhuman, by placing itself at the broad nexus of religious studies, continental philosophy, and human-animal studies. Specially, his thesis seeks to challenge the norms and suppositions that have so far attended the study of religion and materiality (‘material religion’) at the critical junctures of some of the recent trends in critical cultural theory and continental philosophy to do with ‘new materialism’ and various posthuman (as well as postrepresentational and postsubject) conceptualisations of the human and nonhuman body. In thinking through these new materialist theorisations that posit the nonrepresentational referent of ‘matter itself,’ George’s research queries how these theories on matter and mattering might animate certain conceptualisations of religiosity, including that of material religion, the materiality of religious ‘things,’ and the notion of ‘trans-species religiosities.’ George’s forthcoming publications include ‘Re–membering Sirius: Animal Death, Rites of Mourning, and the (Material) Cinema of Spectrality’ in Animal Death (SUP, 2013), as well as papers on such subjects as the study of Islam, sexuality, and queer theory; and the intersections surrounding the study of religion, new materialism, and posthumanism. George is also co-editing a forthcoming special issue of the Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, on religion and rethinking the (non)human.

History, PhD Candidate

My PhD thesis explores the triangular relationship between animal rights' thought and practice (specifically looking at the cases of vegetarianism and anti-vivisectionism), evolutionary theories (from Erasmus Darwin to Henri Bergson) and radical and alternative religious movements (Bible Christianity, Deism, theosophy, spiritualism) in Britain from the time of the French Revolution to the end of World War I. It is a truism that Darwinian thought reshaped conceptions of the relationship between the "human" and the "animal," but to date comparatively little attention has been given to the role that earlier evolutionary theory (back to the time of the French Revolution) played in this transformation, and to the role of radical religious thinkers in this (Deists, for example) who were in the vanguard of evolutionary speculation. This amicable relationship between evolutionary theories and radical and alternative religious thought continued throughout the nineteenth century and beyond. In addition to the commonly held conception of the nineteenth-century conflict between science and religion, an alternative story can be told of the nineteenth-century British alliance between radical and alternative religious thought and evolutionary theories, and the involvement of both in the reshaping of human perceptions of our relationship with other animals.

Government and International Relations, PhD Candidate

Chris' dissertation addresses the research question: how does the framing of shark attacks impact the development of public policies related to sharks in Australia, South Africa and the United States. Policy outputs being reviewed include shark control (beach safety) policies and shark conservation efforts. Chris' research uses social construction and rational choice theory as well as risk perception analysis. He is looking into the human-shark relationship in each country and the meaning-making following shark bites incidents. Recent work of Chris' has included hosting "re-think" the shark forum at Sydney University in March 2011, co-hosted by the Uni Wildlife and Politics societies. He also recently presented at the 2011 International Marine Conservation Congress on the impact of shark attacks on shark conservation policies in Australia.

English, PhD Candidate
Atilla Orel is the current postgraduate representative member of the HARN executive. Atilla is a postgraduate teaching fellow in SLAM (English) currently completing a PhD focusing on intersections between early nineteenth-century vegetarian thought and poetics with emphasis on the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Atilla’s broader research interests include the history of animal representation in philosophy, religion and literature, animal domestication and changes in meat-consumption in nineteenth-century English, discourses of diet past and present, animal studies and gender, contemporary vegetarian and vegan critical thought, and theories of objectification.

Department of Studies in Religion, PhD Candidate
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Teja Brooks Pribac graduated from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her principal interest and concern is the seemingly perpetual need of the human to objectivise the surrounding subjects as a means of recognising the human’s own subjectivity. She is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Studies in Religion. Her research focuses on animals grieving at the death of proximal subjects.

Department of Studies in Religion
Venetia completed a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Studies in Religion and History at the University of Sydney in 2009. She wrote her Honours thesis in the department of Studies in Religion on the online Therianthropy subculture and the relationship of spirituality to the articulation of the ‘humanimal’ self. Her present postgraduate projects engage her research interests in the interactions between religion, popular culture, and alternative identities and lifestyles. She is currently working on an article that unpicks the connections between Furries, fandom and postmodern identity, based on a conference paper recently presented at a symposium for the Sydney Society of Literature and Aesthetics.

Gender and Cultural Studies, PhD Candidate

Project description: The destruction of Asian environments as a result of tourism points to the need for a new paradigm for the industry that fosters ethical behaviour. The research aims to develop such a paradigm by viewing these environments as hybrid spaces comprised of both human and non-human species with competing, but not mutually exclusive, interests. It explores the ways in which animal-centred volunteer programs in India, Thailand and Indonesia assist Australian tourists in becoming respectful, ethical stewards of the sites which they tour. The thesis shows that by locating the non-human within the notion of 'community', and, consequentially, the human within the notion of 'environment', the intersection of nature and culture that occurs within hybrid environments might be utilised to promote ethical human/non-human relations through the auspices of tourism.

Vet Science

Optimism in Dogs
Cognitive bias refers to the tendency for humans and non-human animals to interpret events positively or negatively depending on their emotional state. It is therefore possible to use a measure of cognitive bias as an indicator of whether an individual may be feeling “happy” or “unhappy”. This has been tested in rats, sheep, chickens, starlings and dogs. In these species, positive changes in the individual’s environment resulted in a cognitive bias towards positive outcomes (optimism), and negative changes in their environment resulted in a cognitive bias towards negative outcomes (pessimism). Measuring cognitive biases in animals gives us an objective insight into their current emotional state, which allows us to draw conclusions about what makes them “happy” and what distresses them in the short term. My project aims to produce a simple, portable method of measuring cognitive bias in dogs. This would potentially be of use in numerous contexts. It could be used as a tool to indicate positive or negative emotional state and thus allow for an objective assessment of welfare. This will help to improve the assessment of welfare in dogs, especially those in kennel situations where welfare can be a challenge. It is particularly significant in its offer of an objective measure of positive emotional state, as this tends to be difficult to determine in animals. It could be used to detect recent, subtle changes in emotional state to help pinpoint environmental factors that may compromise or enhance welfare. I have put together a survey for dog owners on dog personality towards these ends. This survey aims to bring together previously identified dog personality traits and differences in a dog’s approach to life and their style of coping with new or unpleasant situations. This will help us to identify how different aspects that make up an individual’s temperament relate to each other. It will also help to identify what drives inborn optimism or pessimism in dogs and improve our understanding of what makes some dogs better able to cope with the trials life throws at them than others.

The survey is currently open for responses and can be found at the following link: Click here to participate in the survey

Faculty of Veterinary Science
I am studying a Master of Veterinary Studies in the Faculty of Veterinary Science. I am specialising in animal law, behaviour and welfare in addition to bioethics, animal research ethics and wildlife health and disease. My research is with the endangered Tasmanian Devils suffering from the fatal Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).

Christine Townend founded Animal Liberation in Australia in 1976. She later went to live and work as managing trustee of an animal shelter in Jaipur, India, and founded two animal shelters in Kalimpong and Darjeeling ( She is also a published author of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, the most recent book being a biography, Christine's Ark (Macmillan 2007) by journalist John Little. Subject of research project for Doctor of Creative Writing: There is a scarcity of contemporary Australian poetry which addresses animal rights issues. Particularly absent is poetry in which the animal is speaking as the first-person subject, thus allowing the reader a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of the creature. Using ethology as a basis, together with imagination and creativity, poetry in which the animal speaks could possibly be used as a literary device to provide new insights into the feelings, thoughts and emotions of animals.

Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine, PhD Candidate
Research Title: ‘Front-line responders and animal owners during civil emergencies: assigning responsibility and accommodating vulnerability in managing animals in natural disasters.’
The power of the human-animal bond is manifest in people’s refusal to evacuate without their pets and their risk-taking attempts to rescue animals during a natural disaster. Deep guilt and grief in the face of animal loss and suffering can seriously mar people’s ability to rebuild their lives post-disaster. Scholarly research into managing animals in disasters is in its infancy in Australia. Cheryl’s PhD research aims to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between animal owners and front-line responders before, during and after a natural disaster. It will delve into people’s values and beliefs about what should be done for animals and what obligations are owed to the most vulnerable at times of emergency - who is at risk, who is responsible, and what we expect of responders and owners alike. The study is local–level focussed covering the geographic areas of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, with potential for part comparative study with North America.

Sy Woon is a University of Sydney veterinary student currently undertaking an intercalated veterinary research year. She has served as president of the University of Sydney Animal Welfare Society (formerly known as ‘Veterinary Science for Animal Welfare’) since 2010, and holds the position of Student Coordinator for Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, as well as being a representative on the Faculty of Veterinary Science’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Sy also works as Project Officer for Medical Advances Without Animals (MAWA) Trust and is the founder and this year’s president of the Sydney University Vets Beyond Borders Student Chapter. Her greatest passion lies in advocating for the welfare and rights of animals through education, to promote a compassionate regard for the most exploited - particularly animals subjected to factory farming, live exports, experiments, entertainment and bear bile farming. She also has an avid interest in veganism; a guiding philosophy she aligns with her love for animals and ethical beliefs.