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 – 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

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 – 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!

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.

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!


We’ve had a busy few weeks here at the Healy lab, jetting off to all sorts of conferences:

Eira presented not one but two posters for the ESEB meeting at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland. Both posters focus on nest building in birds, with one detailing the use of different nest material by zebra finches, and the other analysing nest morphology in weaver nests.

Eira poster ida poster




Sue and Lauren attended Behaviour2015 in Cairns, Australia. Along with Carel ten Cate, Sue organized a symposium on Avian Cognition which was very well attended. During the symposium Sue gave a talk about time/place learning in wild hummingbirds and Lauren gave a talk about social learning in nest-building zebra finches. After the conference they visited Macquarie University where Sue gave a departmental seminar on the role of learning in nest-building birds in the Department of Biological Sciences. Their tour continued at Newcastle University where they visited Andrea Griffin (check out their new paper here!)

sue and LG in Newcastle




Last week, Georgina and Nora attended the ASAB Summer Conference at the University of Lincoln. Georgina gave a talk regarding whether parasitoid wasps are “rational”, and Nora spoke about information encoding in tit species, and won a prize for 2nd best talk, so well done!