Department of Psychology
University of Cambridge
Cambridge CB2 3EB
gd339 AT cam.ac.uk
I grew up in Canada, near the Rocky Mountains, exploring the native wildlife. I was always fascinated by the intelligence of ravens and the collective aerial displays of the American crows near my home, flocking in the thousands in a nearby wood. These were some of the experiences which have taken me to a career in Zoology, completing my Bsc Zoology (Honours) at University College London, after which I began a PhD at the University of Cambridge to study corvid intelligence, supervised by Prof Nicola Clayton and Dr Alex Thornton.
Recent studies show that captive jackdaws respond to the eye and head direction of humans and conspecifics (gaze sensitivity). Little is known about how and when jackdaws use gaze in the wild, what psychological mechanisms underlie these abilities, or whether jackdaws’ unusual pale irises play an important role, similar to the pale white sclera in the human eye. By studying various corvid species in captivity and in the wild, I hope to understand how gaze sensitivity affects decisions about nesting locations, predator escape and foraging opportunities. I am also investigating whether having a conspicuous iris colour has enhanced gaze sensitivity in jackdaws, and if other passerine birds that also possess conspicuous irises evolved this character trait in response to particular biological factors.