Our research team works in collaboration with experts around the world to improve our understanding of donkeys and their welfare. Sharing our findings is an important part of what we do to help educate and inform at all levels.

As well as co-ordinating research projects, the team also oversees the nutrition and parasitology management of our UK and European donkey residents. Each member of the team brings a different skill set and they work to their own strengths.

Faith Burden

Faith manages the research and pathology team.  Her role involves leading the research programmes and developing and overseeing the work of our  in-house pathology laboratory. The hard work of the team and external collaborators helps to improve the knowledge base of all things donkey and mule. We use the evidence and information they produce to diagnose disease, promote and improve quality of life and enhance understanding of the unique nature of donkeys and mules.

In Faith’s spare time, she likes to take work home and is the proud owner of two mules and a pony. She enjoys riding, walking and getting muddy with her equines, the perfect 'out of work' activities!

Gemma Lilly

Joining Research and Operational Support from the Veterinary Department for a secondment covering Kristin O’Connor’s maternity leave.

Having started at The Donkey Sanctuary in 2007 as an Equine Dental Technician performing routine and advanced treatments in the resident herd, Gemma is very much enjoying an office-based role for these winter months!

With a huge range of day-to day-duties, Gemma is relishing the great many new challenges and opportunities to get involved in all aspects of department operations.

In her free time, Gemma can still be found performing dental work in donkeys, mules and horses up and down the country... or hanging precariously from a ladder at her new, slightly (yet significantly) dilapidated, house.

Zoe Raw

After two years working on our international projects, Zoe now manages and leads the Research Team. Zoe loves working with such a passionate and dedicated team, and due to their hard work and commitment, feels very lucky to be involved with all aspects of research aimed at improving the lives of donkeys. We are really excited about developing a new research focus on working donkeys, where we hope to provide evidence of the critical role they play in rural and developing communities, and the contribution they make to human health and welfare.

In her spare time Zoe enjoys days out in the countryside with her dogs and family, and competes in showjumping competitions when she can find a child/dog/husband-sitter.

Kristin Hayday O'Connor

Kristin works as the Research and Pathology Co-ordinator. She has also worked in the sanctuary’s new arrivals unit and spent time working at our sanctuary in Ireland. Kristen’s time is now spent between the pathology laboratory and research office which brings adds variety to her working day. She is very passionate about animal welfare and absolutely love donkeys and mules.

At home Kristin enjoys keeping her allotment ticking over, tackling projects with her house renovations and spending time down the beach.

Liz Hazell-Smith

Liz joined the research team in 2009, having moved down from Sussex to fulfil her dreams of working at The Donkey Sanctuary.

She has worked on some of our major projects over the last few years, facilitating from this end to help make things run smoothly. Liz now works part-time since having children.

Liz enjoys editing and writing so works mainly in the office these days, although she still gets to go out and ‘play donkeys’ occasionally!

Nikki Bell

Nikki is the Senior Research Assistant which offers the perfect mix of both office-based work and practical field work. In her day-to-day duties she helps oversee the parasitological management of our UK and European equine residents and helps provide nutritional advice and support to donkey owners both within the UK and around thee world. Nikki also helps supervise and support student projects and assists with data collection for internal and external research projects.

When not at work, Nikki is kept busy looking after her three horses, one of which she retrained following a successful racing career and he now enjoys spending time hacking round the Devon countryside and going to dressage events when time allows.

Sarah Long

Sarah has worked for The Donkey Sanctuary since 2004.  In 2015 she joined the research team and her time is now split between the pathology laboratory and assisting with project work within the research team. Sarah particularly enjoys the practical side of the job where she can get out and about on the farms and interact with our fabulous herd of resident donkeys and mules knowing that the work we carry out contributes towards the improved welfare of donkeys all over the world.

In Sarah’s free time she enjoys competing in agility with her two Labrador dogs, walking the Devon countryside, photography and horse riding.