Michael Bliemel, PhD, Dean, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, Ontario Tech University (Front Left) and Dolf DeJong, CEO, Toronto Zoo (Front Right) alongside members of Ontario Tech University and Toronto Zoo. Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo

(Left to Right) 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 Credit: Toronto Zoo

TORONTO, ON, Monday, March 2, 2020: 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.

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.
  • Partnering on a new Conservation Campus (part of the zoo’s Visitor/Welcome Centre) to provide space for teaching and research.
  • Holding regular educational outreach events at the Toronto Zoo and Ontario Tech to highlight each organization’s expertise and research capacities.

“Ontario Tech University is excited to partner with the Toronto Zoo on their Technology Transformation and Innovation plan. We look forward to opportunities to apply our research expertise in collaborative design and digital economy technologies and add to the already amazing zoo experience for visitors, residents and employees. 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.”
- Michael Bliemel, PhD, Dean, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, Ontario Tech University

“The Toronto Zoo is committed to applying innovative technology solutions to provide exemplary animal care. This new partnership with Ontario Tech University is an exciting opportunity to continue to develop and employ innovative technology solutions to increase conservation impact and improve the well-being of animals in our care. It is also our esteemed pleasure to have Ontario Tech join the Toronto Zoo’s Technology Advisory Committee to act as a resource in the development of student experience, capital facilities and educational outreach. From our perspective, the implementation of this partnership is an excellent example of community collaborations in action to help the health and wellness of animals.”  
- Dolf DeJong, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo

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