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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

 

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

 

Fieldwork in the Canadian rockies

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A shot of David, Vicki, Maria, Mabel, and Freya during a hike in the rockies (photo credit to Freya Coursey)

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

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David, Maria, Mabel, Freya, and Georgina enjoying a day off before leaving Canada (photo credit to Mabel Barclay)

Conference – ISBE

Dave Shuker joining Nora, Georgina, and Sue for a lab photo outside the conference venue

Nora, Georgina, and Sue all attended the International Society for Behavioral Ecology conference held in Exeter. This conference marked the 30th anniversary since the founding of ISBE, and as a result attendees were able to purchase special anniversary t-shirts, as shown below.

Nora modelling one of the ISBE anniversary t-shirts

At the conference, Nora gave a talk about information encoding strategies in UK tit species, whilst in the poster session Georgina presented her work on whether rufous hummingbirds make “irrational” decisions. Finally, Sue also joined in by chairing a session on cognitive processes. A productive conference all round!

Georgina presenting her poster on decision-making in hummingbirds

New papers out – Reviews

We’ve had some more publishing activity from the Healy lab, recently in the form of reviews! Well done Alexis, David, Maria, Lauren, and Sue!

 

What Can Nest-Building Birds Teach Us?

Photos by Ida Bailey (a) and Kate Morgan (b) and (c).

The structures that animals build are extraordinarily diverse, particularly nests built by birds. As part of the annual edition of Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, members of the nest building team (Alexis, Lauren and Sue) review 150 years of observational and experimental data to show that bird nest building is a useful model for the study of learning, memory and brain-behaviour relationships. To read more, click here.
 

 

Why study cognition in the wild (and how to test it)?

A lot of what we know about animal cognition comes from studies in the lab, but researchers (including us!) are getting more and more curious about the role of cognition outside of the lab, studying animals in their natural habitats. As part of a recent special issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, we (David, Maria, and Sue) have written a review looking at why researchers are so interested in cognition in the wild, how we go about testing it, and some of the challenges that people face by working in the wild.

We particularly talk about some of these topics in the context of our own work on the spatial and temporal cognition of wild hummingbirds, so if you like that work, and want to check this out too, you can read the review here.