Just back from a brilliant 5 days at the Archbold Biological Station in Florida. Here, I was reunited with Corina Logan to scout for Boat-tailed grackles, but also made some new friends, the most memorable of which was this handsome (avian) chap below whom belongs to the endemic Florida scrub jay population.
Thrilled to have received the Ron Weisman Outstanding Student Presentation award at the 24th International Conference on Comparative Cognition in Melbourne Beach, Florida, where Sue Healy, Lauren Guillette and myself attended and all presented talks. My talk was titled Effects of Early-life Experience and Social Environment on Material Choice in Nest-building birds.
Last week I had the wonderful experience of hosting my friend and colleague, Sarah Jelbert (University of Cambridge), as a guest speaker here at St Andrews. Her talk was titled: Mental template matching and cultural transmission in New Caledonian crows. To read more about her work, click here!
Thrilled to have joined forces with the amazingly talented Alina Loth for her latest Research Illustration project aimed at using art and images to communicate science. To view the illustrated version of my PhD and quest to understand how birds understand how to build a nest, click here!
Thrilled that my very first, first author (alongside co-authors Lauren Guillette and Sue Healy) review paper is out in Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews! Read all about why nest building by birds is a useful model system for the study of learning, memory & brain-behaviour relationships! Available for download below, or online reading here!
The nest building team strikes again! This time we were at the Edinburgh Science International Science Festival to engage with the community through our pop-up science event: Why do Birds Build Nests? Here, both children and adults were provided the opportunity to view and handle birds' nests from our collection and to have their own go at building a nest themselves - harder than it sounds! Many decided to take their architectural accomplishment home with them, however, others helped to decorate our tree (see below), which, if I do say so myself, gives social weaver birds a run for their money! More photos can be found here.
It was my great pleasure to co-organise this year's European Student Conference on Behaviour & Cognition in St Andrews, UK. This conference aims to bring together early-career researchers (PhD and Masters students) from different disciplines to present their work and discuss current topics on the interface between animal behaviour, psychology and the cognitive sciences. As such, attendance is free and conference delegates are also provided coffee and lunch gratis.
This year, the conference was attended by 50 delegates from 11 countries, and many talks explored culture, innovative behaviour and social transmission of information in a variety of study systems, from great tits to humans. Additionally, we were privileged to hear two keynote lectures given by (1) Professor William McGrew (University of Cambridge) on Living Apes as Models for Dead Humans: Stones, Bones, and Ecotones and (2) Dr Andrew Young (University of Exeter) on Sex differences in cooperation and ageing in wild social vertebrates. The conference also included a lively round-table discussion on Gender Equality & Diversity in Academia.
Delegates further enjoyed the opportunity to hone their traditional Scottish dance skills by participating in an evening ceilidh, in addition to getting a flavor for the local pub culture.
Overall, the European Student Conference on Behaviour & Cognition provided delegates the opportunity to hone presentation skills, partake in critical (but constructive) discussions, and to build bridges within the broader scientific community—an invaluable experience! More photos here.
The main objective of the Dundee Science Festival is to increase science in the community and to widen access to science. To this end, I helped build an interactive booth with several different activities for the public of all ages to participate in. Specifically, I designed an educational poster game where participants matched birds to the nesting environment and type of nest each builds based on descriptive life history clues. The booth was a huge success and it will be used in future outreach events. For a fantastic photo overview of all of the fun the nest building team had see here!
Had a great time in Lincoln, UK at the 2015 Nest Construction & Function Conference! Here, I presented my research on material selection in zebra finches, which provides the first concrete evidence that these birds both learn about, and base their material choice on, the structural properties of nesting materials. That birds pay attention to the properties of nesting materials was further supported by research by Nat Warning and Lauryn Benedict on Rock Wrens--very neat!