Zoology Research Fellow
I am a wildlife biologist and have been a member of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit since 1996. I am currently a Research Fellow in the Zoology Department of Oxford University. I gained my first degree in Applied Biology from Bath University, a Master’s degree in Fishery and Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University, and a DPhil in Zoology from Oxford University. Much of my work has been influenced by the early years of my career working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the very first reintroductions of the black-footed ferret to Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota in the early 1990s. At the time, this enigmatic little carnivore existed only in a handful of captive populations in zoos and breeding centres across the US. The opportunity to be involved in what is now a text-book conservation project led to a personal fascination in small carnivores (every bit as interesting as lions and less likely to eat me!), and a passion for restoring nature wherever we can.
I work predominantly on mesocarnivores with a particular focus on semi-aquatic mustelids, but I have also worked with other groups including small mammals, and beavers. Since 2007, I have overseen the WildCRU’s research on American mink and other riparian mammals. I have written a number of peer-reviewed papers on the biology, ecology, conservation and management of mink and other mustelids and am currently co-editing (with David Macdonald and Chris Newman) a book on the Biology and Conservation of Wild Musteloids, following a highly successful international conference that we organised and held in the Zoology Department at Oxford University in 2013. I am a member of the IUCN Otter Specialist Group, the Beaver Advisory Committee for England and was an Independent Monitoring Partner for the Scottish Beaver Trial at Knapdale, Scotland (2009-2014).
In keeping with the ethos of the Unit, I have interests in both fundamental biology and the more practical issues associated with wildlife conservation and environmental management. Particular interests include mechanisms for co-existence within carnivore guilds, sexual dimorphism and its effects on behavioural and ecological strategies, the implications of individual behaviours and individual specialisms in generalist species, and the ability of semi-aquatic mammals to function in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. As a conservationist, I am interested in how small carnivores and other species exist in a human-modified world, how they co-exist with humans, and how we restore them where they have been lost. Most of my work has been field-based but I increasingly use meta-analysis and systematic review methods to address broader-scale issues.
Current research themes are: (1) conflict between humans and musteloids, and potential management solutions (with a particular focus on otter-fisheries conflict), (2) assessment of global priorities for musteloid conservation, (3) reintroduction biology (including general issues such as welfare of individuals and factors influencing success, and species specific projects including beavers in the UK and European mink in Spain), (4) diving behaviour of semi-aquatic mammals.
A current conservation priority in my work is development of a reintroduction project for the highly endangered European mink in Spain, a species that is in serious danger of extinction in the very near future if we do not develop adequate conservation strategies soon. In collaboration with Madis Podra, of Foundation Lutreola, we hope to have a project up and running by the autumn of 2016 but this will be dependent on funding and logistical support.
My full publication list can be viewed here [http://publicationslist.org/lauren.harrington] and an overview of my work on American mink (and that of the group over the last 20 years) can be found in two chapters in the 2015 book Wildlife Conservation on Farmland, Volume 2: Conflict in the Countryside (edited by David Macdonald and Ruth Feber, and published by Oxford University Press).
Our final monitoring report on the Scottish Beaver Trial is available here and a summary of our monitoring role in the trial here.
I am always keen to supervise undergraduate final honours projects, and wherever possible encourage students to publish their work. Recent students include:
Abigail Motley, 2014. The effect of climatic variation on juvenile body size for two species of bat in Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, UK.
Kathryn Grant, 2011. Assessing the Potential Impact of Otter Predation on Local Fisheries in the Upper Thames Valley. * Published as Grant and Harrington (2015) in Mammal Research
View my full publication list here.