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’.

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

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.

Outreach – Scottish Ornithologists’ Club

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The Scottish Ornithologists’ Club gave a warm welcome to Sophie at an evening event in St Andrews inviting PhD students to talk about their research. Sophie spoke about nest building and about whether temperature affects the nest that a bird builds. The talks were followed by a reception where Sophie could chat to the attendees further, some of whom have since stayed in email contact. Great work Sophie!

Outreach – Edinburgh International Science Festival

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.

Well done team!

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.

Dundee Science Festival

If you went to the Dundee Science Festival you might have caught up with some of the Healy lab! Lauren, Sue, Eira, Alexis, and Sophie spent the day talking and interacting with members of the public, using hand-on activities relating to nest building. The Healy lab exhibit, called ‘Why do bird build nests’ also included some video footage of wild weaver birds, and zebra finches in the lab, and it seemed like great fun was had all round! Find out some more about the day’s activities here.

Papers published – on a roll!

The Healy lab has been busy over the last few weeks, with several papers being published.

Lauren and Sue have published a paper focusing on nest building, the forgotten behaviour (with a couple of cheeky snaps from the paper above).

 

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!

Nest Construction Conference

The Nest Construction and Function 2015 conference, held in Lincoln, was attended by Alexis, Lauren, Eira, and Sue:

 

Alexis giving her talk on how male zabra finches learn about and attend to multiple physical properties of nest materials:

 

Next up, here’s Eira talking about the role of the cerebellum in avian nest-building behaviour:

 

Here, Lauren talked about how first-time nest-building zebra finches copy experienced conspecifics:

 

And then finally, Sue pictured with Charles Deeming with the book ‘Nests, eggs, & incubation’ which Sue, Kate, and Ida contributed a chapter to!