© Corina Logan
Meet Tequila's fan club
© Corina Logan
Meet Charlie (female), our first tagged great-tailed grackle!
How do sociality, ecology, and genetics influence behavior and cognition?
Ecological, social, and genetic environments interact to shape how animals behave and what they know about the world. Investigations in non-humans are making ground-breaking discoveries: crows make and use tools and western scrub-jays plan for the future. How do they accomplish such feats and what benefits do these abilities provide in the wild? The answers remain largely unknown, but I endeavor to uncover some of these mysteries.
I investigate the influence of ecology and genetics on behavior and cognition (great-tailed grackles) and brain size (red deer).
Grackles: Conducting behavioral observations in the wild and cognitive tests in aviaries allows me to examine their behavior in the context of how natural selection has shaped these traits, how they use their cognition in the wild, and why these abilities might have developed. I compare non-innovative great-tailed grackles who have an average relative brain size (corrected for body size) with innovative, relatively large-brained New Caledonian crows (Logan et al. 2014) to examine whether a species innovation frequency and relative brain size influence cognitive performance.
Deer: I research what social, ecological, and genetic factors influence brain size variation in red deer using a long-term dataset of over 1,000 individuals that lived on the Isle of Rum in Scotland.
My past research examined the influence of sociality on behavior, namely that sociality influences how three species of corvid (birds in the crow family) support each other after fights: even the less social species use social support, though they get support from anyone while the more social species interact with their mate after fights (Logan et al. 2013a & 2013b). I highlighted population differences in social coatis (a raccoon relative) by finding that, in one population, adult males play with juveniles rather than prey on them (Logan & Longino 2013). I also hypothesized that the unique ecology of birds that follow army ants could influence their cognition, making them a new system for investigating memory and future planning (Logan et al. 2011).
2012 PhD Experimental Psychology University of Cambridge
2004 BS Biology The Evergreen State College, WA USA
2002 AA Biology/Drama Skagit Valley College, WA USA
Are grackles the most amazing animals? Grackles vs geckos on BBC's Dotty McLeod show (starts at 1h:54m). Grackles vs 6 others on BBC's Naked Scientists (grackles start at 23:12) and 5live Science (grackles start at 35:04)
Preprint is out: Is there a field proxy for brain size in great-tailed grackles?
New Caledonian crows discriminate between water volumes, inhibit causal knowledge, but don't infer a hidden causal mechanism: UCSB news, Nat Geo blog, Futureproof interview (starts at 25:20), Moncrieff show interview (starts at 36:52)
I'm quoted in MacLean's Don't call them bird brains
Need to study the whole brain to know if non-humans imagine themselves in the past and future
Watch my New Caledonian crow vlog at National Geographic Explorers Journal!
I'm interviewed about the grackle project
Awarded a National Geographic Society / Waitt Grant to study grackle cognition! Gates Cambridge news release