Dr Kris Descovich

Postdoctoral Researcher

Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics
Faculty of Science


Dr Descovich is an animal scientist working at the interface between welfare, behaviour, management and zoology. She is currently a Research Fellow in UQ’s School of Veterinary Science working within the Animal Welfare Standards Project, a large international collaboration between Australia and China that aims to improve livestock management and welfare. Kris has a broad range of professional industry experience, having worked within zoos, veterinary clinics, and animal shelters. Dr Descovich's research is diverse and encompasses a range of topics in animal welfare science including captive wildlife management, pain identification in animals, novel welfare methods, and applied animal ethology.


Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, Unitec Institute of Technology - 2016

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Queensland - 2012

Bachelor of Applied Science, Honours (BAppSc (Hons)), University of Queensland - 2008

Masters in Biostatistics, University of Queensland (In progress)


2019 - Current. Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Animal Welfare, University of Queensland

2015 - 2019. Lecturer in Animal Welfare. Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand

2013 - 2015. Research Fellow in Animal Welfare. University of Stirling, Scotland

Research Interests

  • Animal Welfare Standards Project
    This research program is a large collaboration between UQ and five agricultural universities across China, focusing on livestock management and welfare. Research projects include: - The welfare of fish during transportation (PhD project with Yifei Yang) - Modelling of animal welfare improvements for layer hens and beef cattle - Alternative bedding for cattle - Public attitudes towards animal welfare - Microbial-brain-gut axis effects on feather pecking
  • Behaviour & welfare of companion animals
    This research stream focuses on challenges in companion animal management. Completed and on-going projects include: - Mental health challenges for companion animals - The behaviour of kennelled and shelter dogs (PhD project with Dr Veronica Amaya) - Human-animal interaction and dog welfare in Tonga (in collaboration with Unitec Institute of Technology) - Owner-dog training interactions in Taiwan (in collaboration with Dr Hao-Yu Shih)
  • Behavioural methods as animal welfare indicators
    This research stream focuses on new and emerging behavioural indicators of welfare in a range of species and applied contexts. Completed and on-going projects include: - Interactions between taste and welfare in companion dogs (in collaboration with Unitec Institute of Technology) - The use of facial expression as a measure of welfare (in collaboration with the University of Stirling) - Facial expressions as pain indicators in primates (in collaboration with the University of Stirling)
  • Captive management for wild animal welfare
    This research stream focuses on the management and welfare of wildlife in zoos and sanctuaries. Completed projects include: - The behaviour and welfare of rescued bears in rehabilitation centres in Cambodia (in collaboration with Free the Bears) - The effect of ambient noise on zoo species welfare (in collaboration with Auckland Zoo). - Behaviour and welfare of zoo and orphaned orangutans (collaborations with The Orangutan Project and Auckland Zoo) - The use of technology to improve great ape captive management (PhD project with Caitlin Ford) - Public and expert attitudes to wild animal conservation and welfare challenges (PhD project with Tessa Derkley)
  • Behaviour & welfare of Australian marsupials
    This research stream focuses on fundamental research into the behaviour and welfare of Australian marsupial species. Completed projects include: - Research on the behaviour and welfare of southern hairy-nosed wombats in captivity - Welfare of macropod species in commercial harvesting and non-commercial management

Research Impacts

Animal welfare science is the systematic assessment of an animal’s quality of life across domains such as health, behaviour, and mental states. Animal welfare is an important societal concern and a component of socio-cultural sustainability, one of four, interconnected “pillars of sustainability”. Many industries and communities rely on the use of animals and high standards of animal welfare protect human safety, restrict disease transmission, and control financial risk through corporate social responsibility. Animal welfare also impacts product quality and safety in fields such as agriculture and bioscience.

Dr Descovich’s research aims to improve the lives of animals that are affected by a range of human activities. These include animals in industries and contexts such as agriculture, bioscience, zoological institutions, animal shelters, and within human-animal interactions. Her work also considers how welfare interventions may impact industries that rely on animals, and the influence of public support for animal use activities. Therefore, Dr Descovich’s work as an animal welfare scientist not only improves the quality of life of animals, but also assists industries that use animals to manage the risks associated with poor animal welfare.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland


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Book Chapter

  • Berris, Karleah K. , Ruykys, Laura , Goldingay, Ross L. , Morrant, Damian S. , Packer, Jasmin G. , Descovich, Kris , Matthews, Alison , Coetsee, Amy , Nicolson, Vere , Horsup, Alan , Moseby, Katherine , Jose, Hayley Louise , Gill, Sarah J. and Taggart, David A. (2022). Wombats, bandicoots, bilbies, possums and gliders. Wildlife research in Australia: practical and applied methods. (pp. 401-411) edited by Bradley P. Smith, Helen P. Waudby, Corinne Alberthsen and Jordan O. Hampton. Clayton South, VIC, Australia: CSIRO Publishing. doi: 10.1071/9781486313457

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors: