© National Geographic Society
Watch clever grackles solve a challenge
from Aesop's Fables
Read the story that goes with the video
© NY Times
The grackle's secret to success
Watch the video and read the story
© Corina Logan
Meet Charlie (female), our first banded great-tailed grackle!
What is behavioral flexibility and is it a mechanism for surviving in new environments?
Behavioral flexibility, the ability to adapt behavior to new circumstances, is thought to play an important role in a species' ability to successfully adapt to new environments and expand its geographic range. However, behavioral flexibility is rarely directly tested in species in a way that would allow us to determine how it works and how we can make predictions about a species' ability to adapt their behavior to new environments. I use great-tailed grackles (a bird species) as a model to investigate this question because they have rapidly expanded their range into North America over the past 120 years. I found that they are behaviorally flexible and that flexibility is independent from problem solving ability, problem solving speed (Logan 2016a), other behaviors (Logan 2016b), and innovativeness (Logan 2016c), and that grackles can solve some problems with a similar efficiency to New Caledonian crows (Logan et al. 2014). I am currently investigating how great-tailed grackles manage to survive in new environments by testing their behavior, immunity, hormones, parasites, and population genetics in three populations from the middle of their range to the expanding northern edge. Read more about our investigations at GitHub.
Why does brain size vary in the wild?
If brain size does not predict cognitive ability, as I and others have found, then why do brain sizes vary? I have a unique opportunity examine what social, ecological, and genetic factors influence endocranial volume (a proxy for brain size) variation in a long-term dataset of over 1,300 red deer that lived on the Isle of Rum in Scotland. As individuals in the study died over the past 40+ years, their skulls were kept, providing extensive data for each specimen and making it possible to answer previously inaccessible questions about the heritability of endocranial volume in the wild.
My commitment to conducting rigorous science
My goal is to ethically conduct and promote rigorous science. I avoid exploiting myself as a scientist, I facilitate equality and diversity by ensuring that no one is discriminated against when reading my scientific literature, and I keep funds in academia (see my paper and presentation for background). I use the mechanism of transparency to achieve my goal so anyone can evaluate my contributions at every step of the process. I only submit papers to 100% open access journals at ethical publishers, and I publish the review histories (when it is an option) and datasets (and usually also R code) that go with my papers. I only review and serve as an editor for articles at 100% open access journals at ethical publishers, and I sign my reviews. Occasionally, I may submit papers to or review articles for journals that are not 100% open access (but are at ethical publishers) as long as 1) the article will be made open access immediately upon publication (gold OA), and 2) the journal deducts article processing charges from library subscriptions so universities do not pay more than once for the same article. (Updated Nov 2016)
Beyond brain size paper is out! Along with 2 commentaries & our response
Joined PCI Ecology as a Recommender and a Managing Board Member
Knowledge is a public good #MeetAScientist 500 Women Scientists
Tempe, Arizona undergrads: apply to join The Grackle Project
See what grackle experiments are planned at GitHub!
Early career researchers: Do you feel pressured into publishing in particular journals? SIGN to urge institutions to better support us
Not an ECR? Add your name to the list of #BulliedIntoBadScience supporters
Campaign updates at BulliedIntoBadScience.org
Shift academic culture through publishing choices. Gates press, F1000 blog
Joined the Editorial Board at Animal Behavior & Cognition
Spoke at eLife Webinar How to make your voice heard
Is behavioural flexibility evidence of cognitive complexity? Gates press release
Wild red deer brain size is heritable; females with larger brains live longer, have more surviving offspring. Cambridge press, Science, New Scientist, Gates, Naked Scientists podcast
New Caledonian crows use social and personal information. UCSB press
Behavioral flexibility is not related to other behaviors. Press: UCSB, Gates. Interviews: Cambridge News, BBC Lunchtime Live (21 July, starts at 31:16)
Behavioral flexibility is not the same as innovativeness. Press: Cambridge, Gates, NY Times ScienceTake, Audubon, Curious Meerkat.
Great-tailed grackles are behaviorally flexible and solve Aesop's Fable tests! UCSB press, Nat Geo video
Are grackles the most amazing animals? Grackles vs geckos on BBC's Dotty McLeod (starts at 1h:54m). Grackles vs 6 others on Naked Scientists and 5live Science (grackles at 35:04)
New Caledonian crow vlog at Nat Geo Explorers Journal!