Back to blog list

What can you do with an AWF Student Grant?

27 Nov 2020


Ahead of the closing date for the Animal Welfare Foundation's (AWF) student research grants deadline, be inspired by past AWF awardees and the projects they've undertaken.

What can you do with an AWF Student Grant? Image

The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) is BVA’s charity and is dedicated to improving animal welfare through science, education and debate.

This year, AWF is offering students who are interested in animal welfare, the chance to apply for a student grant for a short research project. But what is involved in undertaking a student research project?

Take four students who, in their own words, describe what they did with the money they received from the AWF Student Research Grant scheme. Hear more about their research projects and what it was like to put their plans into action!


Sheryl Bradley - awarded an AWF student research grant in 2020 for her research project: The effects of change of keeper and level of human-animal relationship on the behaviour of kikuyu black-and-white colobus (colobus guereza kikuyuensus) and scarlet ibis (eudocimus ruber)

“This project aimed to determine if human-animal relationships (HARs) and human-animal bonds (HABs) are present and reciprocal within a zoo, as well as identify if the changing of keepers taking care of the animal had any effect on the behaviour of the studied species.

“Evidence suggests that HABs exist between keepers and the animals in their care and can improve welfare, but that these bonds are dependent on management styles and other factors. Twelve scarlet ibis and eleven kikuyu black-and-white colobus and their keepers were studied at the ZSL London Zoo. Behavioural data was obtained over a period of 28 days for each species using camera footage captured during periods of husbandry provision.

“Video recording was not without its hiccups, and not being able to travel to the zoo to help with these issues was extremely frustrating at times. But with the help of the primate keepers (my COVID camera custodians), I was able to collect a sufficient data set for the project.

“Overall, whilst I might not recommend completing research during a global pandemic, my experience demonstrates that with the help of others it can be done! Thank you to my COVID camera custodians, without whose support, I could not have achieved this research, and to the AWF for having faith in my ability to carry out the research despite the challenges faced by COVID-19.”


Sophie Common- awarded an AWF student research grant in 2019 for her research topic: Is faecal shedding a route of detection of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus in Adult Shedders of Asian Elephants?

“The topic looked into whether it is possible to detect elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus in faecal samples using PCR, when elephants are shedding the virus in other secretions (saliva). The associated haemorrhagic disease is the leading cause of death of captive Asian elephants in Western zoos, but its impact in the wild is unknown. I was very interested to see whether a non-invasive detection method would be possible which may aid in studying the disease in wild elephants in the future (as there have been emerging cases). EEHV may become a conservation concern for Asian elephants, which was the driving factor behind undertaking this study. Elephants are also my favourite animal!

“I learnt a lot; I gained practical experience with elephants while sample collecting, as well as shadowing the vets for treatment of real cases of the disease. Moreover, I undertook a lot of laboratory work, which I am very new to. I feel I have developed as a person through communicating and learning about the Thai culture and its longstanding link to elephants, as well as through making mistakes and working out how to overcome them, particularly in relation to laboratory techniques. I was even able to undertake a practical course on elephant health and reproduction whilst in Thailand.

“I would advise future applicants to apply, even if they have no previous research experience and do not expect to get the grant. I had never had any previous experience of grant writing, and did not think I was in with a chance! But projects which can help to improve animal welfare are vitally important, and someone has to do them! Plan your project as early as possible, and gain advice from as many people as you can as this will help to maximise your knowledge of the subject.”


Jillian Gordon – awarded an AWF Student Research Grant in 2018 for her research project: The relationship between grimace expression of dairy cattle and post- mortem dental health, and its implication for welfare and production.  

“I applied for an AWF Student Grant as I really wanted to focus on my research and the AWF grant gave me the option to reduce my hours at work so I could give my studies the time it needed. 

“The application process showed me what it was like to apply for funding in the academic industry, the AWF team were there whenever I had a question and the forms were clear and relatively simple to fill out. My project was the biggest research project that I had ever taken on, and I loved it. AWF has given me the opportunity to focus on my research completely and I have really enjoyed this experience. So much so that I aim to continue my education and I am working towards further opportunities to do so. 

“My main piece of advice for future applicants is to take time to evaluate all possible delays that your project may face. You need to be prepared for all possible events and have a plan in place on how you can deal with theses.” 


Charlotte Norman - Awarded an AWF student research grant in 2016 for her research project: Imported rescue dogs; reasons, methods and welfare

“The AWF grants scheme appealed to me as their grants are tailored towards supporting the development of students through research opportunities.

“The summer project gave me more skills than I ever thought it would. I started with little to no research experience so both terminology and research processes were new to me. I learned how to write and pilot a questionnaire, how to advertise the project and communicate with participants and industry leaders, how to analyse the data and how to write a scientific paper. I also had the opportunity to present the research at four different conferences, which really helped develop my confidence in public speaking. Talking about my project, which I knew inside and out, to audiences with no prior knowledge of the project or the practice of importing dogs was a great way to develop my confidence and competence in public speaking. 

“My advice would be to go for it- do a summer research project or intercalate! You learn so much, not only in research but in communication and presenting. You also meet lots of new people, have a set summer income, and it looks great on your CV. I am now open to the possibility of undertaking research as part of my career in the future.”

The application deadline for this year’s AWF student research grants is Sunday 31 January 2021. Apply via the AWF website.


Want to join BVA?

Get tailored news in your inbox and online, plus access to our journals, resources and support services, join the BVA.

Join Us Today

Not a member but want a weekly vet news round up?

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for the latest vet news in your inbox.

For tailored content in your inbox and online, as well as access to our journals and resource and support services you might want to consider joining BVA.