About me

PhD

I’m broadly interested in the evolution of complex cognition and culture. More specifically I focus on the emergence of socially learned vocal behaviours in parrots. I study vocalisations and social behaviour of the monk parakeet, an invasive parrot in many European cities. I also do comparative work trying to link vocal complexity, social complexity, brain size and longevity across parrots. I’m supervised by Dr. Lucy Aplin and Dr. Mary Brooke McElreath.

In our latest publication, we estimated life expectancy for 217 parrot species and showed that increased longevity is driven by a direct effect of relative brain size. A nice summary of this study can be found here. This also led to a short methods paper outlining how (not) to include relative brain size in a regression.

Ongoing work includes:

  • A field study of dialect patterns in monk parakeets across their European invasive range (together Stephen Tyndel)
  • A field study of individual signature within and across call types in mon parakeets (in collaboration with Dr. Juan Carlos Senar)
  • A field study of vocal and social complexity in monk parakeets in Barcelona (in collaboration with Dr. Juan Carlos Senar)
  • A field study of sequence complexity and repertoire size of monk parakeets across European cities of different population size and ages

Tagged monk parakeet preening its partner (that managed to remove its tag) in Ciutadella park, Barcelona.

Other interests and future plans

I really like to work on other projects and am always happy to get involved in side projects. I’m especially excited to work with training animals, doing field work and doing comparative analysis or agent based models. This last interest has led to a publication together with members of Dr. Aplin’s and Dr. Farine’s lab.

For future work I would like to continue working on the amazing field site in Barcelona, where Dr. Juan Carlos Senar has a large population of tagged monk parakeets. I think a lot can be learned about the function of call types by detailed observation of the Ciuatadella park population. Also many questions about sociality can be answered here. By expanding the tagging effort to other parks using a relatively low-cost catching technique with long nets, a lot can be learned about the effect of range-expansion on vocal repertoires. Which vocalisations are maintained in the lower density edge populations? Are vocal innovations occuring here? Finally, using short-term captive studies and hand-rearing, I hope to study the extend of social learning on the vocal repertoire. Which vocalisations are socially learned? And how long does it take for these to be reinvented?