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’.
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
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.
The British Society for Neuroendocrinology held its annual conference this year in Glasgow between the 28th and 30th of August. The conference began with a workshop for early-stage researchers, covering the latest scientific techniques, science communication, and publishing. This was followed by a series of talks and poster presentations from students and scientists from around the world showcasing the latest pioneering research in the field of neuroendocrinology.
David, supervised by Dr Karen Spencer as well as Sue, presented a poster of his work describing how early-life stress induces long-term effects on systems regulating stress and immune responses within the central nervous system of female Japanese quail (Corturnix japonica). David came away from the conference with the first prize for best poster, so well done David!
Another successful fieldwork season in the Canadian rockies! David and Georgina were joined by former Healy lab member Dr Maria Tello-Ramos, as well as three undergraduates from the University of St Andrews (Vicki, Mabel, and Freya) to work on wild rufous hummingbirds for 7 weeks. David and Vicki paired up to find out how the hummingbirds use landmarks, Maria and Mabel looked at whether the hummingbirds change their foraging sequences, and Georgina and Freya focused on how the hummingbirds make foraging decisions. Everyone worked fantastically hard, and got lots of data as a payoff. Well done everyone!
“Conducting research in the Rocky mountains was an experience I will never forget. Alberta is a beautiful place to work and hummingbirds are the most fascinating species to study. I’m really excited to spend the next year reminiscing about the experience while working with the data we collected. I’m so incredibly grateful to have had the chance to work with such esteemed scientists, who were not only inspiring and excellent teachers but good fun too. Thank you for all your continued guidance. To future adventurers I would recommend a good sunhat, plenty of bug spray and a better camera than I had!”
– Mabel Barclay
“I was completely amazed to be given this opportunity to carry out research for my dissertation in the beautiful setting of the Canadian Rockies. Being able to watch hummingbirds behaving in the wild was a real treat, and is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I learnt a lot, not only about cognition in hummingbirds, but also the often tricky process of data collection and the general world of academia. My gratitude goes to Dr Sue Healy and Dr Andy Hurly for the fantastic opportunity, and also many thanks to Georgina, Maria and David for putting up with us undergraduates. Extra thanks go to Georgina for your mentoring and endless enthusiasm!”
– Freya Coursey
“I had such a fantastic experience in Canada. I saw far more wildlife than I could have imagined. The hummingbirds were amazing, and never mind the experiments – they would come feed from a feeder that I was holding a foot away from my face!! But of course, the best thing had to be seeing that wolf. MOST EXCITING MOMENT OF MY LIFE!!!!!“
– Vicki Balfour
At this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival visitors has their eyes opened to the world of nest building! Lauren, Sophie, and Alexis set up an exhibit on ‘Why Do Birds Build Nests?’, inviting both children and adults to try out their own nest building abilities by creating a nest sturdy enough to hold a chocolate egg! Not only that, but various nests (built by the birds, not the visitors) were on display for all to see and touch for a real hands-on experience of nest building. Attendees were also encouraged to test their bird-based knowledge by matching up birds and nests to their environment in Scotland. All the while, footage of nest building by our zebra finches in the lab and of wild weaver birds in the field (South Africa) were running for the viewing pleasure of the hundreds of people who stopped by.
Many thanks to the BBSRC for funding to deliver this event.
The Healy lab has been busy over the last few weeks, with several papers being published.
Next up, Ida has had two papers accepted: The first on whether taste affects nectar consumption in sunbirds, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology. The second is on observations on nest material collection in male weaver birds, published in Emu, with Kate and Sue as co-authors among others.
Well done all!