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’.

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

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

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

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!:


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:


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.