Research Goals

Cognition, a suite of neural processes including decision-making, learning, and memory, determines how individuals interact with their environment, and therefore impacts on a range of ecological and evolutionary processes. The major goal of my research is to understand how cognitive processes are shaped by natural selection. My research is focused on avian foraging and social behaviour, using experiments in the field and in aviaries. I am also studying behaviour and cognition of field crickets (Gryllus spp.), with a focus on causes and consequences of individual differences in learning and memory. I use an integrated approach, drawing from behavioural ecology, evolutionary ecology, and experimental psychology.

Curriculum Vitae

1998-2001: B.Sc. Biologie, Université Laval, Canada
2001-2006: Ph.D. Biology, McGill University, Canada
2007-2009: Postdoc, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada
2009-2012: Postdoc, EGI, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
2012-2017: Assistant Professor, Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada
2017-Now: Associate Professor and University Research Chair in Cognitive Ecology, Dept. Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada

Join the lab:

In fall 2018, I will be taking applications for graduate positions (PhD or MSc) and Honours projects for a May or September 2019 start. I am also taking applications for UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) projects on avian behaviour and spatial memory (deadline Oct 15).

Applications: please send a short cover letter explaining why you would like to conduct research in my lab, along with your cv and an unofficial transcript. Applications for PhDs from applicants who have experienced scientific writing as first author are especially welcome: funding is available via my Early Career Research Award, Human Frontiers Science Program, University Research Chair, and NSERC Discovery Grant.

All graduate students at the Department receive an annual salary of 20 000$, in addition to a complete tuition fee waiver for Canadian applicants with >85% in their last 2 academic years (i.e. UO admission scholarship worth 8000$ per year x 2 years for MSc or 4 years for PhD). International PhD students now pay tuition fees at the level of Canadians.

Vous pouvez communiquer avec moi en anglais ou en français.


For more frequent updates, see my Twitter account: @JMorandFerron


*Throughout September we will be catching field crickets in and around Ottawa: we need extra hands to help! If you would like to volunteer, even just once to learn how this is done, please contact me or PhD student Marc-Antoine Poirier mpoir066@uottawa.ca

J'ai donné la 1ere entrevue de la nouvelle émission 'Moteur de recherche' avec Mathieu Dugal à la radio de Radio-Canada. Vous pouvez écouter notre discussion à propos du vote chez les abeilles, les chiens sauvages et les mésanges:  https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/moteur-de-recherche

We have attended several conferences this summer: OEEEC @ Western U, SCEE @ Guelph U, HFSP annual meeting @Toronto, ISBE @ Minnesota, and Evolution @ Montpellier: thanks for the invitations from symposia organizers (Jeff Martins, John Ratcliffe, Blandine Doligez & Laure Cauchard), and to everyone for stimulating discussions... and fun banquet receptions!

I have co-guest edited the first Special Issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal society B on ''Causes and consequences of individual differences in cognitive abilities'':  have a look at our Introductory Paper (full review, not just a list of content) or at some of the meta-analyses, articles or reviews:


Several papers out from the lab: see Publications or my Google scholar page.

1st article of 2018 is out! Does our method apply to your system? If so it could save you tons of video analysis time...



Journal of Animal Ecology Blog interview: https://journalofanimalecology.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/field-reports-ju...

On Nov 3-5, I will be co-hosting (with Vincent Careau and Gabriel Blouin-Demers) the 42nd annual meeting of the Société québécoise pour l'étude du comportement animal (SQEBC) at UOttawa for the first time in its history! Guest speakers: Nadia Aubin-Horth, Niels Dingemanse, Simon Reader and David Stephens. Information on registration and abstract submission (deadline Oct 15th):  SQEBC2017 - English.pdf

Oct 1st: I was just awarded a University Research Chair in Cognitive Ecology by UOttawa.

We will be at the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) conference in Toronto, June 12-16th: come chat with us!
Tue 16h Cognition and learning: Megan Thompson
Wed 16h45 Cognition and learning: Sanjay Prasher
Wed evening posters: Catherine Jarjour
Thu 10h Behavioural plasticity: Ethan Hermer
Thu 11h30 Symposium ''Animal Cognition'' organised by Dr Reuven Dukas & Dr John Ratcliffe: Julie Morand-Ferron
Fri 10h30 Cognition and learning: Isabel Rojas-Ferrer
Fri 11h15 Social behavior: Dr Julian Evans

2 more papers out from theses in the lab:

Great tits play a producer-scrounger game at puzzle boxes in Wytham woods: ''Stable producer-scrounger dynamics in wild birds: sociability and learning speed covary with scrounging behaviour'' by Lucy Aplin and Julie Morand-Ferron,
Proceedings of the Royal Society Bhttp://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/284/1852/20162872


How an automated device can address questions in cognition? Interview for a blog on Scientific American, by Dr Felicity Muth:  http://tinyurl.com/z7ro2qv

2 papers out in Animal Behaviour from MSc theses in the lab:

  • ''Personality does not predict social dominance in wild groups of black-capped chickadees'' by Isabelle Devost, Teri Jones, Maxime Cauchoix, Chloé Montreuil-Spencer, Julie Morand-Ferron.
  • ''Male experience buffers female laying date plasticity in a winter-breeding, food-storing passerine'', by Shannon Whelan, Dan Strickland, Julie Morand-Ferron, Ryan Norris.
    Read this paper on our new national bird species: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.08.014

Out in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: 'Innovation in animals and humans: understanding the origins and development of novel and creative behaviour', edited by Simon Reader, Emma Flynn, Julie Morand-Ferron and Kevin Laland. http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/371/1690/20150184


The first research article on the portable learning box is out! Read the article and watch short videos of birds using the box in the wild (Wytham woods, Oxford, UK): http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0133821

Human Frontiers Grant (2015-2019): This is a new international collaboration on the evolution of learning in wild great tits, Moulis, France. Research topics include: links between personality, sociality, and cognition; measuring cognition in the wild; and fitness consequences of individual variation in learning rates.

Nature paper out: Aplin, Farine, Morand-Ferron, Thornton, Cockburn & Sheldon:

Related interview at CBC's Quirks & Quarks: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/quirks-quarks-for-jan-3-2015-1.2881357/birds-conform-to-local-traditions-1.2881478



Logo by our multi-talented postdoc, Julian Evans