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

Climate change: the world’s greatest challenge

Three Gates Cambridge alumnae took part in the first of a series of online panels to celebrate the scholarship programme’s 20th anniversary. The panel discussion, Climate change: the world’s greatest challenge, took place on the day that the Gates Cambridge Class of 2021 was officially announced. The panel was introduced and hosted by Professor Stephen […]

Class of 2021 announced

The Gates Cambridge Class of 2021 made up of 74 outstanding new scholars has been officially announced. The Gates Cambridge scholarship programme, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, is the University of Cambridge’s leading international postgraduate scholarship programme. It was established through a US$210 million donation to the University of Cambridge from the Bill […]

Serotonin and its role in emotional responses

Two new studies which shed light on the role of serotonin in emotional responses have been published in leading journals. Jonathan Kanen [2015] is lead author of both. The first is published in Translational Psychiatry and looked at the influence of the neurotransmitter serotonin on emotional reactions to social conflict. The study involved volunteers drawing […]

Scholar wins NASA Fellowship

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has won a prestigious NASA Fellowship to continue his studies on exoplanets. Luis Welbanks has been awarded a NASA Hubble Fellowship and will begin his programme in the autumn at Arizona State University. The Fellowship programme “enables outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue independent research in any area of NASA Astrophysics, using […]