Human-animal interactions

How understanding our interactions with other species is improving human health

As humans we tend to think of ourselves as living quite separately from other animals. But throughout history we have not only coexisted alongside other species but in many ways depended on them for our own health and wellbeing.

A new research group has been established by the Charles Perkins Centre to consider the significance of human–animal interactions from a broad and multidisciplinary perspective, in an effort to understand and maximise their positive effects on our health.

We consume other animals as meat and other foods, use them in farming and transport, train them for security and assistance, keep them for companionship and exercise, and study them to improve our understanding of human health and disease.

The diversity of these interactions, and the broad range of academic disciplines within which they traditionally fall, has meant that the overall significance of other species as a salient component of the environment that determines human health has been neglected as a primary focus of research.

The Charles Perkins Centre has established a uniquely multidisciplinary project group that will study this important topic from across disciplines and research facilities, both within and beyond the University of Sydney.

The group, led by Professor David Raubenheimer, will expand the traditional model of human health to encompass our interactions with other species and the effects these have on our health. Specific areas of enquiry will include integrating best practice in human and animal medicine; measuring the health benefits of pet ownership; investigating the shared environmental factors that drive the correlation between obesity in pets and their owners; critically assessing the practice of animal-based research into human health; and examining the ethics of using other species for our own health benefits.

Professor Raubenheimer says the group’s collaborative approach will be of benefit to both humans and other species: “This approach can help to solve a range of problems, from conservation of endangered species to optimising diets for healthy ageing and addressing human obesity and cardiovascular disease.”

Importantly, he adds, it will also train the current generation of students in the mindset of cross-disciplinary research. “For the next generation of researchers, this will be the norm, not the aspiration or exception.”

The project leader

Professor David Raubenheimer
Dr Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska


Professor Stephen Simpson Charles Perkins Centre
Dr Rebecca Spindler  
Dr Karrie Rose  
Dr David Slip  
Dr Jo Wiszniewski  
Dr Vicky Melfi  
Dr Meredith Bashaw  
Dr Monique Van Sluys  
Rosie Martin  
Lindsey Gray  
Dr James Gilbert  
Dr Arianne Cease  
Dr Fleur Ponton  
Dr Mathieu Lihoreau  
Dr Shawn Wilder  
Dr Fiona Clissold  
Katie Robinson  
Alison Gosby  
Samantha Solon  
Pedro Telleria  
Dr Cecily Oakley  
Jesse Hawley  
Claire MacAlpine  
Matthew Hansen  
Dr Charmaine Tam  
Dr Robert Graham  
Tamara Pulpitel  
Ximonie Clark