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, Edward Grey Institute, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
2012-2017: Assistant Professor, Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada
2017-Now: Associate Professor & University Research Chair in Cognitive Ecology, Dept. Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada.


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

I would like to thank the Faculty of Sciences for awarding me the Young Researcher of the Year Award in November 2019. I am automatically listed as a finalist for the University-level Award... stay tuned for the results of this competition in 2020!

I am the Friday night plenary speaker at the 2019 annual conference of SQEBC, la société québécoise pour l'étude biologique du comportement, McGill University, on Nov 1st. Check out this very dynamic scientific society and consider presenting your research:


I am co-organizing a symposium on "Behavioural plasticity" at the joint ABS & IEC conference in Chicago this summer. Our morning session will focus on cognition and is intended as a 'festschrift' celebrating the career of my PhD avisor, Dr Louis Lefebvre: http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/2019/program-symposia.php

I am proud to have received a Discovery Accelerator Supplement grant from NSERC as a boost to my NSERC grant 2019-2024.

Our first cricket cognition paper in collaboration with Dr Sue Bertram is out! Individuals learned the location of a reward in a radial arm maze... Did individual performance correlate with personality? thigmotaxis? differences in perceptual strategies? https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1Yf1i_4tk~rCo

Examples of individual differences in performance in a maze by 2 female Gryllus texensis (Fig 2, Doria et al 2019 Anim Behav)


My presentation (audio+slides) at Montpellier Evolution 2018 is now available online: https://programme.europa-organisation.com/slides/programme_jointCongress...

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

Join the lab:

All grad and Honours positions for 2021-2022 have now been filled.

Vous pouvez communiquer avec moi en anglais ou en français: jmf(at)uottawa.ca


Chickadee logo by Dr Julian Evans