The Department of Zoology was one of the Foundation Departments of the Faculty of Science and the University in 1948. The First graduates were produced in 1951 with B.Sc. (General) Degree in Botany, Chemistry and Zoology. The production of General Degree graduates reached its peak in 1954 when seven students graduated with Honours in Zoology. Graduate study was introduced in 1956. Admission into the Honours Class had been based strictly on academic excellence and merit and our graduates have helped to satisfy the high level man-power needs of the nation in various fields.
The research activities of the Department can be broadly assessed in term of decades. The first decade, 1948-1956 was the teething stage of development during which strong emphasis was laid on establishing the basic principles of zoological research “on Nigeria soil”. It necessarily involved intensive collection of a variety of animals, a number of which were unknown to science. The second decade, 1958-1968 was characterized by the laying of strong foundation for basic ecological research, with a view to applying research findings to the solution of identified economic problems including the erosion of Victoria Beach in Lagos and fouling organisms in the Lagos Lagoon. The decade, 1968-1978 featured vigorous applied research efforts aimed at some serious aspects of national economic problems. It was also a period in which the Department enjoyed unprecedented international collaborations in prosecuting major multidisciplinary research projects, and substantial external funding. Notable examples of such undertakings were (a) the schistosomiasis project in the Parasitology Unit, (b) the biology and control of dried fish beetles pests and the grasshopper (Zonocerus sp.) pest research project by the Entomology Unit, and (c) the small mammal project by the Ecology Unit. The following decade, 1978-1988, witnessed a drastic cut in University funding and so the Department of Zoology, which had showed such readily observed performance and where the personnel are intellectually well equipped and prepared to do more, consequently faced acute shortage of funds. The staff and graduate students research activities suffered considerably because the University research grants were frozen. However, through the eighties into the nineties, with zeal, perseverance and adaptation, the Department’s staff continued the difficult task of working under harsh conditions.
New programmes were initiated in the nineties to groom graduates to become competent professionals and consultants in fields relating to life and the environment (capture and culture fisheries, toxicology, environmental impact assessment, pest control, vaccine production, wildlife/Zoo management etc.). Through the nineties to the present times, there have been many cutting-edge research in the Department geared at solving pressing essential problems. A Ph.D Thesis by Dr. Olukayode Amos SOGBESAN on the use of non-conventional fish feed ingredients in feed production won The Best Ph.D. Thesis Award in Biological Science within the Nigeria University System in 2007, under the Nigeria Universities Doctorial Thesis Award Scheme (NUDTAS) of the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC).
RESEARCH UNITS OF THE DEPARTMENT
Presently, there are six research units in the Department running courses and programmes that offer B.Sc., M.Sc., M.Phil. and Ph.D Degrees in Zoology; and Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) Programme in Applied and Environmental Zoology.
- Animal Physiology Unit: The unit conducts research on various aspects of animal physiology, including physiology of several basic metabolic processes, physiological effects of food-induced and alloxan-induced Diabetes mellitus in albino rats, physiological aspect of microbial effects of commercial herbal concoction on alloxan-induced diabetic rats.
- Ecology and Environmental Biology Unit: A pioneer unit in the Department conducts research that cuts across several fields such as biodiversity and conservation, ecotoxicology, pollution, environmental impact assessment, environmental biology and ecology of several animals. In recent times, this unit has attracted the largest number of postgraduate students in the Department due to the much needed manpower in the oil industry.
- Entomology Unit: Another pioneer unit in the Department that conducts research on insect biology, arthropod diversity, pest management and control, and insect vectors of diseases.
- Cell Biology and Genetics Unit: The unit runs two programmes at the Postgraduate levels: Cellular Parasitology, and Cell Biology and Genetics. Over the years, research focus has covered molecular biology, malaria research, immunology, genetic epidemiology, biomarkers, genotyping of Nigeria fishes, bioinformatics, molecular genetic toxicology, molecular malaria entomology, cytogenetics, human population genetics and biotechnology. The unit attracts the highest international grants in the Department. This unit is recognized for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases of the World Health Organization. The special programme, through the institutional strengthening programme, has identified the unit as viable through which modern biotechnology can be transferred to Nigeria and other African Countries.
- Hydrobiology and Fisheries Unit: Research activities in the unit include: limnology of many water bodies in Nigeria, biology of many local fin- and shell-fish species, fish preservation, biodiversity in the aquatic environment, pollution of aquatic ecosystem, toxicology, effects of pollution in aquatic ecosystem, ethnozoology, aquaculture: fish breeding, nutrition and production. The Ph.D Thesis that won The Best Ph.D Thesis Award in Biological Science within the Nigerian University System by NUC in 2007 was from this unit.
- Parasitology Unit: Another pioneer unit in the Department with research focus on epidemiology of diseases in Nigeria, control of parasites of public health importance in Nigeria, biodiversity of parasites in cane rats and fishes, parasite immunology, parasite physiology, biology and ecology of parasite vectors.
The University of Ibadan Zoological Garden, originally used for field practicals in the Department of Zoology discontinued its direct relationship with the Department in 1974 in a manner compatible with the wishes of the Department. Under its new independent status, the Zoo is governed by the Zoo Management Board of the University Senate with the Dean of Science as Chairman, the Head of Department of Zoology and two members of staff of the Department appointed by Senate to be on the 15-man Board. The Zoo is still used by the Department for field practicals and the Director of the Zoo is statutorily retained by academic members of staff of the Department of Zoology.
The Department has since inception maintained a teaching collection of preserved animal specimens. A museum curator was appointed to upgrade the assembled materials into large reference collections of invertebrates (notably insects) fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals. The Department now has a reputable collection of well-maintained specimens of all groups of animals including skeletal materials, representations of which are on display in the museum.