Hello! I am Rebecca and I am currently a graduate student in Anthrozoology at the University of Exeter. Growing up I always lived with companion animals, mostly dogs, cats, gerbils, and one budgie. I would also frequently interact with my neighbours' companion animals. When I was first walking to school by myself a neighbour's cat, Radar, would follow me to the end of the road and watch me cross to the school. I think that was the first time I really considered how relationships between humans and nonhuman animals are built when there is no ownership or direct dependency involved.
I had thought about becoming a veterinarian as a kid because I knew I wanted to work towards a future where my work would benefit animals. When my first canine companion developed an aggressive form of cancer, I was barely old enough to be allowed to go with her to the vet to say goodbye. I realized then that I really didn't want to be a veterinarian since I couldn't see myself being the one to advise people that it was time to euthanize their pet, let alone be the one to administer the needle.
Throughout high school I worked at a cat shelter which firmly reinforced my decision not to go into veterinary studies. Eventually I decided that I may be better off helping humans rather than animals and went to university for undergraduate studies in psychology. Within a year I transferred to an anthropology major since I was more interested in how society functions and shapes human interactions and behaviour, rather than the brain itself. Here I focused my attention on class warfare, inequalities, colonialism, and oppression.
After my undergraduate degree, I took some time off to save for graduate school. I wanted to be sure I found the right fit. Eventually I found anthrozoology through what must have been the perfect combination of search terms and it was as if a light bulb went off above my head. I am currently in the MA programme at the University of Exeter with intent to go on to complete a PhD. Generally, I am interested in social structures of hierarchical power and their affect on human/nonhuman animal relationships.
My main focus of research is the Atlantic seal hunt and the neo-colonial forces at work in both support for and opposition to the harvest. Additionally I study elephant unemployment in Myanmar during the decline of the timber industry and ecocentric tourism options that allow the necessary care and stimulation for retired and injured elephant labourers. You can read more about my current projects here.