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, as well as comparative methods. I am also currently developing insect study systems (Gryllus spp.) and welcome graduate applications for this project. 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, Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada



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:
- ''Individual and ecological determinants of social information transmission in the wild'', Animal Behaviour:
by Teri Jones, Lucy Aplin, Isabelle Devost, and Julie Morand-Ferron:

- ''Reduced reproductive performance associated with warmer ambient temperatures during incubation in a winter-breeding, food-storing passerine'', Ecology & Evolution:

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 B:


How an automated device can address questions in cognition? Interview for a blog on Scientific American, by Dr Felicity Muth:

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:

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.


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):

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:

Join the lab:

Applications for graduate positions and postdocs: please send a 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 (either as first or co-author) are especially welcome: funding is available via my Early Career Research Award (funding dedicated to graduate students and postdoc salaries, as well as outreach, 2016-2021), Human Frontiers Science Program, and NSERC Discovery Grant.

All graduate students at the Department receive an annual salary of 19500$, in addition to a complete tuition fee waiver for Canadian applicants with >80% in their last 2 academic years (i.e. UO admission scholarship worth 8000$ per year x 2 years for MSc or 4 years for PhD).

Please also feel free to contact me to apply for a graduate or postdoctoral position (funding also available) for collaborative projects with:
- Dr Alexis Chaine, CNRS France: fitness consequences of individual variation in learning ability in great tits
- Dr Sue Bertram, Carleton: sexual selection and cognitive abilities in crickets
- Dr Howard Rundle, Ottawa: learning in Drosophila

All Honours positions for next year (2017-2018) have now been filled.

Vous pouvez communiquer avec moi en anglais ou en français.

JMF lab logo.png
Logo by our multi-talented postdoc, Julian Evans