Welcome to the "Avian Cognitive Ecology" lab of uOttawa!
Cognition, a suite of neural processes including learning, memory and decision-making, 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, as well as comparative methods. I use an integrated approach, drawing from behavioural ecology, evolutionary ecology and experimental psychology.
1998-2001: BSc Biologie, Université Laval, Canada
2001-2006: PhD Biology, McGill University, Canada
2007-2009: Postdoc, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada
2009-2012: Postdoc, EGI, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
2012-Now: Assistant Professor, Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada
Just recommended by F1000: Aplin, L. M., Farine, D.R., Morand-Ferron, J., Cole, E.F., Cockburn, A. & Sheldon, B.C. (2013) Individual personalities predicts social behaviour in wild networks of great tits, Parus major. Ecology Letters,16: 1365-1372.
Read the paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12181/full
Watch a BBC short documentary on our ongoing social learning field experiment on wild great tits of Wytham: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YTL5DetuR8
Applications for graduate positions (MSc, PhD, postdoc): please send a cover letter explaining why you would like to conduct research in my lab, along with your cv and an unofficial transcript, as well as indication as to whether you hold a valid driving license. For international students and postdocs, also include a list of scholarships for which you would be eligible to apply. All graduate students will receive a salary established according to U Ottawa regulations allowing full-time commitment to postgraduate studies. Ideal candidates would have experience in ornithology, animal cognition, or with fieldwork, and would be eligible for postgraduate scholarships (NSERC, OGS or provincial equivalent; i.e. last 2 years GPA>80%).
SUGGESTED GRADUATE PROJECT THEMES:
"Foraging innovation in winter residents": Innovations, i.e. novel behaviours not previously seen in a population, are important in ecology and evolution as they have been shown to impact on success when colonising new habitats and evolutionary rates. The Necessity-drives-innovation hypothesis predicts that novel foraging behaviours should be expressed more frequently when established solutions fail and/or when the need for ressources increases. Although this hypothesis has received support from behavioural observations in primates, guppies and great tits, contrasting patterns have been reported in other species. The student will experimentally test this hypothesis using black-capped chickadees, a small resident bird frequently faced with food shortages and cold temperatures in winter. Moreover a comparative analysis will be used to test the idea that extreme climatic events are an important ecological driver of foraging innovations in wild birds.
"Evolution of cognition in food-hoarding black-capped chickadees": Black-capped chickadees, like several other bird species living in temperate environments, must remember the location of hundreds of food caches to survive through winter. They must also avoid having the content of their caches pilfered by conspecifics and can potentially steal the content of caches made by others. The proposed research project consists in studying the evolution of cognitive processes underlying these behaviours (spatial and social cognition) using field observations and aviary experiments. Students would also have the opportunity to spend one or more terms at Oxford University, studying another Parid species, the great tit, in Wytham woods (Oxford, United Kingdom).
"Evolution of cognition in food-hoarding gray jays": Gray jays also cache food to survive through winter. The monitored population of gray jays in Algonquin Park provides a unique opportunity to track the evolution of spatial memory in the wild. This population of corvids has experienced a severe decline in the past decades, with the most likely explanation being the degradation of their food caches due to increases in fall temperature associated with climate change. The student will experimentally test this Hoard-rot hypothesis and contribute to population monitoring in the Park.
Vous pouvez communiquer avec moi en anglais ou en français.