Small bird, big ambitions?

  • October 29, 2012
Small bird, big ambitions?

For a bird with a relatively small brain, the great-tailed grackle is very innovative. A new grant will help Corina Logan find out why.

A Gates Cambridge Alumna has won a prestigious National Geographic Society grant to help her study a bird species which has developed innovative ways to find food despite having a relatively small brain.

Corina Logan has been awarded a $14,172 Waitt Grant from the National Geographic Society. The grant for early years researchers funds projects “that require venture capital, supporting exceptional projects while foregoing a time-consuming peer-review process”.

Corina [2008] did a PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge and is now a SAGE Junior Research Fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying bird cognition in the wild. She says: “This grant will fund most of my expenses for setting up a field site in Santa Barbara, California to study cognition in a highly innovative bird, the great-tailed grackle. Grackles have many different ways of finding food, more than would be expected for their relatively small
brain size. I will investigate how they solve their foraging problems by testing their knowledge of their physical and social world. Are they solving their foraging problems by accident because they are very curious, or are they solving them on purpose?”

The grant will also fund a trip to New Caledonia to do comparative tests with New Caledonian crows in collaboration with Dr Alex Taylor from the University of Auckland. Corina adds: “Crows have large brains, use tools, are very innovative and extremely clever at solving cognitive tasks. By comparing test performance between crows and grackles, I will be able to identify specific ways in which large brains provide cognitive benefits.”

Picture credit: Adam Lewis.

Latest News

Knowledge gap on zoonotic disease transmission highlighted

The impact of climate change on migration patterns, particularly in areas which depend on agriculture and livestock, could affect zoonotic disease transmission yet little research has been done to date. A new study, led by Gates Cambridge Scholar and Veterinary Science PhD student Dorien Braam [2018], looks at the research that currently exists, but calls […]

Addressing climate change in words and action

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has called for the US federal government to establish a national, robust and legally binding net-zero target that emphasises comprehensiveness, equity and clarity on the role of offsets.  In an opinion piece in Arizona Republic, Stephen Lezak and his co-authors, including Kate Gallego, the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, which has done […]

Gates Cambridge mentors: forging bonds and giving back

The Gates Cambridge Scholars Council has been running a mentoring programme since 2018 as part of an effort to bring alumni and scholars closer together, build a stronger sense of community and to give mentors a chance to give back. This year has seen a big increase in the number of mentors coming forward, with […]

Scholar joins COP26 net-zero initiative

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been appointed as a climate change consultant on a new consortium working on a net-zero vision for the world ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference [COP26] in November. Ramit Debnath will be working on designing the India net-zero profile chapter of the vision along with in-country experts. The international […]