Research and fieldwork


Sunbird Foraging Behaviour

Animals often have access to a wide range of information they could use to inform and refine their decisions. They do not however always use it. I am collaborating with Professor Sue Nicolson and master’s degree student Celiwe Ngcamphalala at the University of Pretoria to better understand how and when sunbirds will use taste to inform their foraging decisions and what influences how they choose among differently shaped flowers.

Post-doctoral research, University of St-Andrew
July 2014-Current

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The Role of Cognition in Nest Building

With many similarities to tool use, nest construction is a useful behaviour to study when trying to understand the evolution and nature of physical cognition. I am interested in the role of learning in birds nest building behaviour and what criteria the birds attend to when constructing their nests e.g. the  colour and structure of nest material.

Post-doctoral research, The Healy Lab,University of St-Andrew
April 2012-June 2015

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Cooperative Hunting and Group Decision Making

Interested in the  factors influencing group movements particularly cooperative hunting, I worked with Professor Alan Wilson and colleges  on the CARDyAL project, writing an extensive review on the factors influencing group hunting behaviour and studying the factors influencing movement coordination in flocks of sheep.

Post-doctoral research, The Structure and Motion Laboratory, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, December 2011-April 2012

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Hummingbird Foraging Behaviour

Interested in the economics and ecology of animals’ foraging decisions, I use artificial flowers to investigate the foraging behaviour of Rufous hummingbirds including: their use of taste to decide what to drink and their responses to variation in reward quality (risk-sensitivite choice) and competition from other hummingbirds.

Feeding from board 30b-smaller
Rufus hummingbirds

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To gain more insight into hummingbirds’ foraging ecology I used pollen samples and sightings to identify which wild flowers they visited.

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I also used microsatellite DNA to identify genetic differences among populations breeding either side of the Rocky Mountains.

Doctoral research, The Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Supervisors: Sue HealyJosephine Pemberton and Andy HurlySeptember 2006 – March 2010

In The Field 

Over the last 20+ years I  have amassed a wealth of field experience, working in a variety habitats surveying for and researching a wider range of different species including: North American raptors, burrowing owls, flowers and habitats, sunbirds, weaverbirds, otters, water voles, badgers, salmon, blanding’s turtle, dragonflies, butterflies and moths.



Ferruginous hawk
Burrowing owl
Swainson’s hawk Juv.
Cape weaverbird
Male calliope in hand
Male calliope hummingbird