Improved animal care, guest experiences drive Ontario Tech U and Toronto Zoo partnership

In recent years, the ethical application of technology has greatly improved human quality of life. Mobile devices, machine learning, big data analysis and artificial intelligence have drastically transformed the way we communicate, educate and deliver health-care services.

But have you ever stopped to consider technology’s potential to enhance the lives of animals and improve our understanding of them?

A memorandum of understanding between Ontario Tech University and the Toronto Zoo will promote the development and deployment of innovative technologies to increase conservation impact, improve the well-being of animals, enhance guest experience and more efficiently run the zoo’s operations. It will also provide opportunities for the Toronto Zoo to contribute to the university experience at Ontario Tech by serving as a platform for youth leadership, research and innovation.

“Together we will help advance the Toronto Zoo’s mission by leveraging technology and our expertise. Technological innovation, experiential learning and the ethical application of technology are at the core of what Ontario Tech is about, and we see this partnership between neighbours as enriching for the Toronto Zoo and for our students and professors over the years to come,” said Michael Bliemel, Dean, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, Ontario Tech University.

Initially proposed areas of collaboration include projects led by researchers and students in Ontario Tech’s Faculty of Business and Information Technology:

Improving animal care:
Developing computer applications that use physiological data and machine learning in veterinary procedures.
Exploring the use of computer vision in habitats, and machine learning to study stress, playfulness and other behaviour tied to environmental data and diet.

Enhancing guest experiences:
Building new apps, educational games and augmented reality experiences.
Capturing and mapping Wi-Fi quality and provide recommendations.
Exploring the development of interactive data walls and an interactive Toronto Zoo Welcome Map with information that can help guests plan their experience.

Providing experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at the zoo:
Offering internships, co-op placements, seasonal employment, and volunteer activities.
Exploring opportunities to provide classroom or lab experiences.

They will have regular educational outreach events at the Toronto Zoo and Ontario Tech to highlight each organization’s expertise and research capacities. Also, they will partner on a new Conservation Campus (part of the zoo’s Visitor/Welcome Centre) to provide space for teaching and research.


Photo: (L-R) Michael Bliemel, PhD, Dean, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, Ontario Tech University, Rebecca Clark, Zoo Keeper with Butters the great horned owl and Dolf DeJong, CEO, Toronto Zoo. Photo courtesy of Toronto Zoo.

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