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

 

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 – 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.

 

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

Outreach – Explorathon 2016

The Healy lab came out in full force for Explorathon 2016, an event based on discovery which aims to engage and entertain the public. This year Explorathon celebrated European Researchers’ Night by holding events all over Scotland, including in St Andrews. These events brought together researchers and the public through a series of informative and fun activities, which members of the Healy lab were proud to be part of:

The XX Factor:

gtalk noratalknorawinNora and Georgina joined in The XX Factor, where female researchers talk about their work, but just as importantly how they got to where they are today. With the aim to inspire others, the event held a competitive edge but it was Nora who took home the prize for most inspirational researcher, so a huge well done to her!

 

Research in Action!:

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It’s the return of the nest building stall! With help from Lauren, Eira, Nora, Georgina, and Tayanne Corbani, members of the public were invited to have a go at building a nest. Not only that, but the nest had to be solid enough to hold a chocolate egg, which the builder could keep at the end.

 

Level Up Human:

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Finally, Sue partook in the event ‘Level Up Human‘ where a panel tries to decide how best to improve humans, be it through the ability to talk to animals, breathe fire, or be able to download dreams.

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

Well done Nora – 3rd best talk

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Nora receiving her prize from Jessica van der Wal, another conference organiser

Congratulations to Nora who won 3rd prize for best talk at the third European Student Conference on Behaviour and Cognition, which was hosted in St Andrews this year and organised by four PhD students, including Georgina and Alexis. Nora’s prize was ‘Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” by Frans de Waal. Well done Nora!