Members of the Animal Cognition Research Group have a broad interest in animal behaviour, with a particular focus on how learning and cognitive abilities allow animals to solve problems they face in the wild (e.g. foraging, vocal recognition of conspecifics, how to know what nest to build). We investigate the causes and consequences of variation in these abilities.
Social learning in nest-building birds
Social learning is learning that is influenced by the observation of, or interaction with another individual. Social learning widespread among animals, including humans, and is the foundation of cumulative cultural evolution. I am interested in uncovering both the mechanisms and neural bases of social learning in addition to taking a comparative approach to understand the evolution of social learning pertaining to physical cognition (i.e. animal construction behaviour).
Individual differences in cognition and behaviour
Why does variation among individual in performance on cognitive tasks exist and how is this variation maintained? And, moreover, why does variation in cognition co-vary with seemingly unrelated behavioural traits of exploration or boldness (animal personality)?
Learning in insects
Larval antlions are sedentary insects that construct pit funnel traps in sandy substrate with which they catch prey. Contrary to current learning theory, sedentary predators (larval antlions) do use environmental cues to predict prey availability, an ability that allows them to reach their less-vulnerable adult stage more rapidly than individuals that did not experience predictable environmental cues.Current work on anltion larvae includes examining memory for learned responses.