Would you like to work with us?

If you are interested in joining the group as a PhD student, post-doc or volunteer, please send me an email. Prospective students and post-docs should attach a CV and a brief cover letter outlining their research interests.

PhD students

The main focus in the group is currently on jackdaws and humans but I am open to interesting ideas for work on other study systems.

Two new PhD studentships are now open for applications for an Autumn 2016 start, funded on a competitive basis through Exeter’s NERC and BBSRC doctoral training programmes. Click on links for full details of the research, application procedures and eligibility:

The value of relationships: cognitive and ecological consequences of avian social bonds
Supervisors: Alex Thornton & Andy Radford (Bristol), Alex Hayward (Exeter)
Learning to learn from others: cultural dynamics in corvids
Supervisors: Alex Thornton (Exeter), Christine Nicol (Bristol) & Darren Croft (Exeter)


I welcome applications from prospective post-docs at any time, though please note that I am unable to provide funding. I am very happy to provide help and guidance should you wish to apply for fellowships from the BBSRC, NERC, Royal Society, Marie Curie, the Leverhulme Trust or other bodies. Information about applying for independent fellowships is here.


If you live near Falmouth or Penryn and would like to help with data collection at the  Cornish Jackdaw Project, I would love to hear from you. Volunteers are particularly welcome during the busy breeding season, from April to June. Prospective volunteers to work on meerkats should visit the Kalahari Meerkat Project website for further information.

  • We are advertising 2 new PhD positions on social bonding (NERC)

    and social learning (BBSRC)

    Cooperative breeding doesn’t make you smarter. New paper open access in Journal of Zoology


    New TREE paper: The evolution of individual and cultural variation in social learning

    New paper on human cumulative culture in Scientific Reports


    Jackdaws recognise human faces! Gabrielle’s new paper is out. See coverage on ITV and BBC


    New ESRC grant! Cognitive Requirements of Cumulative Culture: Expts with Typically Developing and Autistic People. Collaborating with Christine Caldwell & Francesca Happé

    New paper with Oxford collaborators in Nature: cultural conformity in great tits

    Enormous congratulations to Gabrielle who passed her PhD viva. Well done Dr Davidson!

    Comparative cognition can help conservation: read Alison’s new paper in TREE


    Coverage of Gabrielle’s Biology Letters paper in the press and on YouTube


    Gabrielle has a new paper accepted in Biology Letters! 


    Gabrielle’s gaze sensitivity review is out!



    Took part in our survey about corvids in your garden? Click here to see preliminary results.

    New publications: 

    - Comparative cognition for conservationists. Trends Ecol. Evol.

    - Towards wild psychometrics. Behav. Ecol.

    - How and why are some animals so smart?. Behav. Ecol.

    - Jackdaw nestlings can discriminate between conspecific calls but do not beg specifically to their parents. Behav. Ecol.

    – Salient eyes deter conspecific nest intruders in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula). Biol. Lett.

    – Gaze sensitivity: function and mechanisms from sensory and cognitive perspectives. Anim. Behav.

    – Heterogeneous structure in mixed-species corvid flocks in flight. Anim. Behav.

    Animal Minds: Phil. Trans. issueAnimal Minds e1345931827281 Opportunities

    -Identification of learning mechanisms in a wild meerkat population. PloS ONE

    – Innovative problem-solving in wild meerkats. Anim. Behav.

    – How do banded mongooses locate and select anvils for cracking encased food items? Behav. Proc.

    – Teaching can teach us a lot. Anim. Behav.

    – Cooperation and punishment in nature. TREE