The evolution of social behavior, brain size, and cognition
Physical and social environments shape how animals behave and what they know about the world. Investigations of avian behavior and cognition are making ground-breaking discoveries: crows use tools, rooks cooperate to get food, and western scrub-jays plan for the future. The field of behavior in wild animals contains many more treasures awaiting discovery. My own research has shown that juvenile coatis (a raccoon relative) play with adult males (Logan & Longino in press), birds that follow army ants could be a new system for investigating memory and future planning (Logan et al. 2011), corvids (birds in the crow family) support each other after fights (Logan et al. 2012 & submitted), and post-conflict affiliation patterns across taxa are best explained by the interaction of three relationship quality components (IEC symposium talk in August 2013).
Cognitive discoveries usually occur in laboratories which examine behaviour out of context, leaving many exciting questions about how natural selection has shaped these astonishingly sophisticated behaviours: how do animals use their cognition in the wild? Why did these abilities develop? What socioecological and genetic factors make a large brain? I am investigating cognition in wild great-tailed grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) to help answer these questions.
2012 PhD Experimental Psychology University of Cambridge
Thesis: the sociality, ontogeny, and function of corvid post-conflict affiliation (supervisor: Nicola Clayton, advisor: Patrick Bateson)
Gates Cambridge Scholar
2004 BS Biology The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA USA
Senior thesis: Play behavior in Nasua narica (white-nosed coati) in Costa Rica (advisor: John T. Longino)
2002 AA degree Skagit Valley College, Mount Vernon, WA USA
Does sitting next to your mate reduce your chance of receiving aggression after a fight? Rooks=yes, jackdaws=no (Mar)
Grackles in the news! Daily Nexus (8 Jan), Santa Barbara News-Press (6 Jan 2013)
Why study grackle cognition? See my UCSB news release with video (Dec 2012)
My wild grackle project just became an exhibit at the Santa Barbara Zoo! (Dec)
I'm hosting a symposium on human applications for post-conflict affiliation at IEC 2013 - join us!
How big was their brain? Measuring the endocranial volume of red deer skulls works best by pouring glass beads inside or with CT scans (Nov)
Awarded a National Geographic Society / Waitt Grant to study cognition in great-tailed grackles! See the Gates Cambridge news release (Oct)
Rooks, jackdaws, and Eurasian jays support each other after fights (Sep)
I co-authored a recommendation with Nicky Clayton on what we must do to keep women in science for a Nature Blog by Soapbox Science (Jul)