PhD and Masters students


My broad research interests fall into animal behaviour and cognition with a special interest in how ecology has shaped these traits in different species. My Research Masters focuses on nest construction behaviour in blue tits. I am interested in the patterns of construction activity in terms of when during the day, and over the course of the nest-building period, blue tits chose to build as well as the factors which might influence these timing decisions and the type and quantity of materials they build with. Email: ajp28(AT)





Madison Crump

For my Taught Masters research project, I am interested in nest construction, primarily in blue tits, as well as finding the most accurate method for future studies to tell a complete story of how nests are built. I will be analyzing the rate of gathering trips and types of materials collected from individual blue tits through both photo and video data. I will quantify how blue tits build their nests and investigate whether both photo and video data are needed to tell a story of how the nest was built. Email: mc367(AT)


Lucy Harper 

For my research masters, I am interested in the structures built by white browed sparrow weavers. These birds are cooperative breeders that build multiple nests and roosts within their territories. For my work I am focusing on the contribution of different individuals to building, the effect that movement between colonies has on building and which roosts individuals use. Email: lh219(AT)



Madeline Buchanan 

For my Research Masters, I am interested in how animals deal with risk (i.e gambles) in foraging decision making. For my work, I will be manipulating the mean and variance of food options, in the form of sucrose in artificial flowers, for wild Rufous Hummingbirds to see if they change their foraging preferences. Many of the past work in this field has used caged or lab animals, so this work is particularly interesting because I am using wild hummingbirds foraging freely. Email: mkb4(AT)



Isabella Tortora Brayda Di Belvedere

For my Research Masters, I am pursuing my interest in nest building and cognition in wild bird populations. I am focusing primarily on blue tits, aiming to ascertain the time of day that birds most actively build, whether they approach nest building opportunistically, and how nests constructed by individuals differ between years, to see if learning from personal experience influences how the nest is built. Email: itbdb1(AT)



I am interested in cognition and animal behaviour and for my PhD I will be researching nest building in zebra finches. I will be looking at how they adapt their nests in response to changes in the climate, and the regions of the brain that are involved in nest construction and adaptation. I am co-supervised by Simone Meddle at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh and am funded by the Eastbio BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme.  Email: se30(AT)


David was co-supervised by Dr Karen Spencer in Psychology & Neuroscience and Dr Sue Healy in Biology. He is interested in the genetic and molecular mechanisms that underlie phenotypic traits, such as cognitive abilities. His project investigated how stress exposure at different life stages interact to affect long-term neuroendocrine and immune function as well as cognitive decline. He used both japanese quail and chickens as model organisms. David was funded by the Eastbio BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme.



Dr Alexis Breen

Alexi’s broad research interests fall under the general heading of animal behavior. During her PhD she studied social learning in nest-construction behavior in birds. She focused her research on which physical properties (e.g., rigidity, size and/or length) birds may learn about nesting materials from observing others build. 



Georgina-GlaserHer main interests during her PhD were animal behaviour and cognition. Her research focused on the effects of context on decision-making, and whether it causes animals to make irrational decisions. She studied both rufous hummingbirds and parasitic wasps. 



IMG_1220Nora’s work was based on how birds in the Paridae family encode information about predator threat in their mobbing calls, and how different species within bird communities use this information. This particularly focused on British tits found in Scotland.




Dr David Pritchard

DavidDavid’s research focused on how animals use spatial cues to remember important locations. He worked with wild rufous hummingbirds in the Canadian Rockies, using field experiments and video tracking to examine how they use information available to them to return to the locations of previously visited flowers. 



Dr Maria C Tello-Ramos

Maria 2b

Maria’s PhD project was centered on comparing sex differences in spatial abilities in wild free-living hummingbirds while also testing whether these birds could learn a sequence while foraging.




Dr Zach Hall 

Zachinthefield2 Zach’s PhD focused on the regions in the brain  involved in nest construction behaviour in zebra finches and the evolutionary origins of nest design in birds. He is now a  PI at the University of Alberta.   




Dr Rachael Marshall

Rachael’s PhD focused on the foraging decisions of wild rufous hummingbirds. In particular their ability to remember what food is where at what time.




Dr Felicity Muth


Felicity’s PhD focused on the role of cognition in the nest building behaviour of weaverbirds and zebra finches. Now she works on bees as a PI of her own lab at the University of Texas at Austin.




Dr Nuri Flores Abreu

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.56.34

Nuri’s Phd focused on three-dimensional spatial learning in hummingbirds.





Dr Guill McIvor

Dr Guill McIvor

During his PhD Guill research the nest-site selection decisions of crows.









Dr Laura Kelley

Laura Kelly

2006-2009: Laura’s PhD research investigated vocal mimicry in spotted bower birds.





Dr Olivia Haggis

Olivia Haggis

2006-2009: Olivia’s PhD focused on the behavioural neuroscience of decision making in zebra finches.




Dr Anjanette Harris

Anjie Harris_12005-2009: During her PhD Anjie investigated the influence of environmental enrichment on the spatial cognition of rats.




Dr Adel Heenan


2006-2010: Adel’s PhD focused on the settling behaviour of coral reef fishes and development of supplementary management tools.