+44 (0)1223 742101
Contrary to popular belief,
my research here at madingley is not concerned with training
the rook faction of a corvid army! Instead, I am interested
in the cognitive abilities of rooks (Corvus frugilegus), and
am exploring the similarities and differences between those
abilities in the social and physical domains, for a PhD supervised
by Dr Nicky Clayton and Dr Nathan Emery. The rook is a particularly
interesting subject for such a comparison, as it is highly
social, but it is not reported to use tools in the wild. I
plan to examine their appreciation of causality, as opposed
to solving problems (both social and physical) through a process
of trial and error learning.
I am testing rooks on physical tasks, such as the trap tube
paradigm in collaboration with Sabine Tebbich, to investigate
whether or not they understand elements of causal reasoning
such as mediating forces and functional connections.
My undergraduate project, which I conducted under the supervision
of Dr Nicky Clayton and Dr Nathan Emery, reported the formation
of alliances in juvenile rooks, in which birds co-operated
to gain a competitive advantage over their group mates. I
hope to use caching experiments and co-operative tasks to
uncover the extent to which they appreciate each other as
causal agents. (I also plan to investigate the post-conflict
behaviour of these birds.)
It is my hope that by gathering such information we may be
able to shed further light on the evolution of large brains
in corvids, and the domain in which selective pressures favoured
the evolution of 'intelligence'. I am interested in comparing
the growing evidence from this group with that from their
counterpart in the world of mammals: primates.
My PhD is funded by the BBSRC.