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Yehoshua Margolin founded the somewhat humble Biological-Pedagogical Institute on Yehuda Halevey Street in Tel Aviv in 1931 to train Israeli teachers in the natural sciences. He firmly believed that understanding and caring for and about nature was the best way to forge a bond between a people and their land. The Biological-Pedagogical Institute grew into the University Institute for the Natural Sciences and, in 1956, became part of the newly established Tel Aviv University. In 1981, the zoo moved to its present location on the University's Ramat Aviv campus, and became the I. Meir Segals Zoological Research Garden.

In fact, nature conservation in Israel would not exist if not for Tel Aviv University zoologists. The University's Department of Zoology Founding Chair Prof. Heinrich Mendelssohn blazed the trail for naturalists throughout the Middle East. Prof. Amotz Zahavi, still active at the University, co-founded Israel's first nature protection NGO, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The Department members are still active in these organizations, as board members and advisors, as well as conducting continuing education programs. Many of their employees are TAU Department of Zoology alumni.


Today, the 750-acre Zoological Resarch Garden provides a unique and outstanding infrastructure for research on wild animals seldom found in similar facilities:

  • A pack of wolves, showing complex social interactions and hierarchy;
  • Various wild rodents demonstrating surprising gender-specific and social context-specific behaviors in response to birds of prey, their natural enemies;
  • Species of nocturnal and diurnal mammals who share habitats and can adapt their daily activity patterns;
  • Bat colonies that show complex group behaviors and unusual sensory abilities;
  • Song birds that learn to sing from related or un-related tutors; and
  • Several species of migrating birds that choose to nest only in the TAU garden.

Studies at the zoo are conducted by world-renowned scientists, such as Prof. Avraham Hefetz, a leader in the field of social insects; Prof. Arnon Lotem, a leading behaviorial ecologist; Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor, an expert in biological clocks; and Prof. David Eilam, a pioneer in developing animal models in the study of human psychological disorders. A recent recruit — Dr. Yossi Yovel, from the University of Chicago — coined a new field of study, NeuroEcology.

Others, together with many graduate students, cover a wide variety of areas, from animal welfare, behavior, endocrinology and entomology to ecology, nature conservation and physiology. Many studies are carried out in collaboration with colleagues from other universities, including Cornell, the Sorbonne and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, as well as with government agencies and NGOs, including the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The zoo is also home to the Tel Aviv University outreach program in science, nature and the environment. Nature Campus, a joint venture with the new Steinhardt Museum of Natural History and the Botanical Gardens, is designed to foster discovery and scientific literacy, based on the fact that, in 2014, it’s not enough to love the environment. Citizens need to understand the scientific processes that maintain the Earth’s ecosystems; and the affect they and their homes and their businesses have on those ecosystems. The diverse Nature Campus programs also promote one of the core missions of the international Earth Summit — Education for All — by introducing the possibilities of higher education and scientific research to children and young adults from Israel's underprivileged and often educationally underserved neighborhoods and towns.

Alumni Say ...

Silvia Noiman SILVIA NOIMAN (BSc, 1982; MSc, 1983; MBA, 1984; PhD, 1991) is a venture partner, entrepreneur and executive at Pontifax Ltd., a venture capital firm specializing in investments in incubation. She is also built one of Israel's most lucrative biotech companies — Predix Pharmaceuticals, which merged with the US-traded Epix Pharmaceuticals. Predix was built on research from the TAU School of Chemistry. Ms. Noiman owes her career choice, a passion for applied science, and some of her success to the early days at the Department of Zoology, where she studied population genetics in a lowly pest, the flour beetle. "Since then I knew that what I'd really like to do in life is applied science, and not basic research. The Department of Zoology showed me this: on one hand we were looking at the basic research of population genetics, while on the other, we explored how to manipulate the damaging flour beetle in a genetic way."

"The environment was great. I was able to ask the questions I wanted, and the Department really gave me the opportunity to be a creative scientist. I feel grateful to have done my first steps with them. These basics are a strong platform to spring from, and I use these skills in every single thing I do. Today, when I'm thinking business, I am thinking business like a scientist and not a businessperson. This, I got from the Zoology Department."

Shai MeiriSHAI MEIRI (1999, BSc; MSc-PhD, 2004) is a member of the TAU Department of Zoology. He and his team are comparative methods to assess the relationship between species' natural history, morphology, ecology, ecophysiology and life history and their biotic and a-biotic environment. "Meeting truly remarkable people, who've shaped my worldviews as a scientist, is one of the best gifts the Department of Zoology has given me. Tel Aviv University is doing an excellent job, both in research and in educating future scientists with the basics: holistic knowledge of animal taxonomy, physiology and anatomy, all the way to how animals relate to their environment.


1931 Year Established as an Institute
1953 Year Founded as part of Tel Aviv University
21 Faculty Members
60 Ph.D. Students
70 Master's Students

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