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.


Big Garden Birdwatch

On the last weekend of January Alexis, David, Eira, Lauren and Shoko from the Rutz Lab donned their citizen science caps and joined the hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country who took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. Saturday in St Andrews was very dreich indeed and most birds on Hallow Hill and St Mary’s Quadrangle on the campus stayed hidden, perhaps passing the time in their jammies with a nice cup of piping hot tea. When the sun came out on Sunday Lauren’s garden, where birds are well catered for with a number of feeders, soared to the top of the chart with 17 species observed in one hour.

Alexis and Eira enjoying the weather

Outreach – Cafe Scientifique

Lauren embarked on a journey to the Cumbrian town of Cockermouth to give a talk for Cafe Scientifique. If you haven’t heard of Cafe Sci before it is essentially a very casual coming together of people, often in a pub and not necessarily with a scientific background, to hear a talk about science or technology.

Lauren’s topic for her talk was ‘Are Animals Smart?’, where she shared her research with around 50 attendees and discussed with them what makes an animal smart and how to test it. You can read a bit more about it on the Cafe Sci website, or on Lauren’s website.

Conference – Postgraduate Conference

Several members of the Healy lab attended the University of St Andrews’ annual biology postgraduate conference, with different roles for each. Georgina gave a presentation on the foraging preferences of rufous hummingbirds (and won first prize for best talk), Alexis presented a poster on the effects of early-life experience and social environment on material choice in zebra finches, and Lauren chaired one of the presentation sessions. This year, the postgraduate conference also had a careers event, which Georgina helped to organise, aimed at PhD students and Postdocs to highlight the career paths available to them. So far, the feedback has been extremely positive, and it looks like it will be coming back again next year. Hurrah!

Georgina proudly holding her presentation prize