Conference – ISIZ

Sue, Lauren, and former lab member Maria Tello-Ramos attended the 9th International Symposium of Integrative Zoology (ISIZ) in Xining, China. Sue gave a plenary talk on ‘Animal cognition in 2017’, co-chaired an animal cognition talks session, and gave another talk on the role for cognition in nest building by birds. Lauren presented her work on social learning in nest-building zebra finches, and Maria gave a presentation titled ‘Hummingbirds travelling through space and time’.

Fieldwork 2017


Another successful field season completed this year, where Sue, Andy, and Georgina were joined by four undergraduate students from the University of St Andrews (two of which were gathering data for their Honours projects), and a graduate from the University of North Carolina. Over the course of 7 weeks the students gathered all the data they needed, and even had some time off at the end to go on some lovely hikes and visit the famous Waterton Lakes National Park. The students had some lovely words to share, too:

“Coming to the Rockies to study wild rufus hummingbirds was both an incredible experience and the perfect way for me to begin my post-graduate research journey. I learned so much from Drs. Sue Healy and Andy Hurly and gained valuable experience conducting field research. Alberta is a stunning province, and I enjoyed the views, the wildflowers, and the many wild animals I saw on a daily basis.” – Sofia Haley, graduate of University of North Carolina


“What a way to spend a summer! I have always had a deep interest in animal behaviour and cognition, so I am thrilled to have had the chance to experience this area of research while working with rufous hummingbirds in the Canadian rockies. Doing such fantastic fieldwork with some of the best minds in the field of animal cognition has been a defining experience for me. Sincere thanks to Sue Healy for allowing me to carry out my dissertation research in such a stunning environment, as well as thanks to Andrew Hurly and Georgina Glaser for their excellent mentorship.” – Clara Morriss, 3rd year undergraduate from University of St Andrews


“The time I spent studying hummingbirds in their natural habitat was a unique experience in which I was lucky to take part. Being able to work alongside experienced scientists and peers – and at the same time being able to conduct my own research in the field – was both challenging and very rewarding. I’m looking forward to using all of the data I collected in the coming year!” – Tas Vámos, 3rd year undergraduate from University of St Andrews


“My trip to Canada was unforgettable – from the company, to the landscape to the world of science and academia that we were allowed to immerse ourselves in. I saw far more wildlife than I would have ever anticipated (nearly a moose a day) and was continually blown away by the dramatic landscape that surrounded our research station. I arrived with little knowledge of hummingbirds and left feeling invested in these fascinating birds and assured in where I would like my career to take me. I am incredibly thankful for Sue, Andy and Georgina for this opportunity – with a special shout out to Georgina for her ongoing patience and enthusiasm! ” Tom Oldridge, 2nd year undergraduate from University of St Andrews


“Arriving in Canada at the start of the field season ’17 was exciting and scary, I didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t have known how incredible, emotional and educational  the next 7 weeks would be. From the very first group meal, to the final drive back to the airport the field season was filled with amazing wildlife, beautiful views and hardcore biology. I have learnt an incredible amount, not only about hummingbirds, but also about working in a team, research, and even myself. This opportunity has been invaluable to me and I’m immensely grateful to Sue and Andy, and of course Georgina for leading us and teaching us (and putting up with us). Thanks for the summer of a lifetime! ” Georgia Kay, 2nd year undergraduate from University of St Andrews


Well done, Nora!

A big congratulations to Nora who will be joining a lab run by Rita Covas, Claire Doutrelant, & Fanny Ryback. She’ll be studying cooperative behaviour in sociable weavers in South Africa starting in the end of September, and when she’s not in the field she’ll be split between the University of Montpellier and University of Porto. Well done, Nora!!

Outreach – LevelUp Human

In September last year, Sue joined in with Scotland’s Explorathon event by being a panel member on LevelUp Human, where a panel of judges decides what would be the best way to enhance the human race. The resulting comedy podcast is now available here, and because it relies partially on audience suggestion the podcast also includes suggested upgrades from lab and audience members Lauren, Nora, and Georgina.

Conference – Behaviour 2017

David oozing coolness at Behaviour 2017

The Healy lab descended in full force on the Behaviour 2017 conference (perhaps partially because it was held in sunny Portugal, see image at end).

Sue certainly had a full programme. Not only was there a book launch for Avian Cognition, edited by Sue and Carel ten Cate (available here), but Sue also participated in the ‘meet the editors’ session (as chief-editor of Animal Behaviour), chaired one of the Animal Cognition talks sessions, and then delivered a talk on variation in hummingbird cognitive abilities, as well as a plenary on “Bringing Tinbergen to a neglected behaviour: nest building by birds”. Between all of this I am told that she did have an afternoon free to lay by the pool.

David gave a talk on visual navigation in hummingbirds, and Nora presented her work on recognition of novel predators in tits. Finally, Lauren also gave a talk on immediate early gene expression and social learning in zebra finches.

Sue delivering her plenary talk on “Bringing Tinbergen to a neglected behaviour: nest building by birds”

Sue giving her talk on variation in hummingbird cognitive abilities










Lauren making friends




David gave a talk on visual navigation in hummingbirds

Nora presented her work on British tits


Not a bad location for a conference

New book out – Avian Cognition

Sue and Carel ten Cate have released a book on Avian Cognition, looking at the range of cognitive abilities that birds possess and their mechanisms. A book launch was held at this year’s Behaviour conference in Portugal, where Sue and Carel were joined by some of the authors (below).

The book is available here, where you can also read more on what the book is about!

Sue, Carel, and some of the authors of Avian Cognition at the book launch at Behaviour 2017


Conference – Conference on Comparative Cognition

Perhaps better known as CO3, the Conference on Comparative Cognition as always was held in Florida. Sue, Alexis, and Lauren were the lucky ones that attended, with a four day long stint of basking in the sun, listening to talks, and even getting involved in the March for Science at the Space Coast.

March for Science, Space Coast edition

But the team didn’t just attend as spectators. Alexis gave a five minute talk on how the social environment in the early life of zebra finches affects nest building behaviour and won the Ron Weisman Memorial Outstanding Student Presentation. Great work Alexis!

Alexis during her winning talk

Lauren gave a talk on social learning and the brain, and also hosted a mentor session where established experts in comparative cognition, like Sue, spoke to students about various aspects of research including leading teams, balancing work with other priorities, and obtaining grants. Sue then also gave a talk on how rufous hummingbirds adjust their foraging routes when the quality of sucrose solution along their route is changed.

Lauren talking about social learning

Sue giving her talk

Conference – Scottish Ecology, Environment and Conservation Conference

The Scottish Ecology, Environment and Conservation Conference was held in Aberdeen this year, and included talks across a range of topics from PhD and Master’s students. As the name suggests, talks were related to ecology and the environment and conservation, but there was a big emphasis from the keynote speakers on how students could use their science to inform and drive policy, peaking with a panel discussion on “‘Applying ecological science to conservation policy”. Georgina attended and presented her work on the effects of food quality on foraging decisions in rufous hummingbirds (I know, not a species native to Scotland), and was commended on her talk! There are not, unfortunately, any pictures from the conference, but here is a picture of a hummingbird to make up for it.