Sébastien Quigley

Master in Biology

Research Interests

I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in Biology at the University of Neuchâtel. After completing my bachelor’s degree in biology, my interest in conservation led me to undertake a 6-months long conservation and biodiversity research internship in South Africa. This fieldwork experience strengthened my resolve to work in conservation and motivated me to specialise in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology during my MSc. 
For my master’s thesis, I decided to combine my passion for African wildlife with the knowledge I gained during my specialisation. As a result, I am fortunate to be involved in the Black Rhino Conservation Ecology Project (https://blackrhinoconservation.com), founded by PhD Vanessa Duthé. This project aims to conserve the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), a critically endangered species on the brink of extinction due to poaching and habitat loss. The black rhino plays an essential role in modulating ecosystems as well as socio-economic factors within communities. 
As part of this project, my master’s thesis focuses on the study of intraspecific communication of this species. The primary aim of my thesis is to identify the different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from rhino middens (i.e. dung piles), their main communication purposes and the overall use of middens. My second aim is to relate these VOCs to specific physiological states of individuals, which will allow the categorisation of emitted molecules responsible for a particular behavioural response, such as territoriality, but also reproduction and dominance.
This study will provide insight into the little-known function of middens and the compounds they harbour while providing a better understanding of intraspecific communication and behavioural patterns in black rhinos.
Participating in the Black Rhino Conservation Ecology Project is a privilege that allows me to contribute to applied research that directly impacts the conservation efforts of this iconic species. It also provides an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained during my studies and fieldwork in a practical context, further developing my skills as a scientist and conservationist.

Main topics

  • Conservation
  • Ecology
  • Black rhino
  • Middens
  • Volatile organic compounds