© Corina Logan
Meet Charlie (female), our first tagged great-tailed grackle!
© Julia Leijola
Eurasian jay, Rome, and Corina
How do sociality, ecology, and genetics influence behavior and cognition?
Ecological, social, and genetic environments interact to shape how animals behave and what they know about the world. Investigations in non-humans are making ground-breaking discoveries: crows make and use tools and western scrub-jays plan for the future. How do they accomplish such feats and what benefits do these abilities provide in the wild? The answers remain largely unknown, but I endeavor to uncover some of these mysteries.
I investigate the influence of ecology and genetics on behavior and cognition in great-tailed grackles in Santa Barbara, California. Conducting behavioral observations in the wild and cognitive tests in aviaries allows me to examine their behavior in the context of how natural selection has shaped these traits, how they use their cognition in the wild, and why these abilities might have developed. To place grackle cognition in a theoretical context, I compare their cognitive performance with New Caledonian crows (Logan et al. 2014): both species are highly innovative, but grackles have a smaller than expected relative brain size (corrected for body size) for such a high number of innovations. How are grackles so innovative? Stay tuned as I find out!
In May 2015, I will take up a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Cambridge to determine what social, ecological, and genetic factors influence brain size variation in red deer using a dataset of over 1,000 individuals.
My past research has examined the influence of sociality on behavior, namely that sociality influences how three species of corvid (birds in the crow family) support each other after fights: even the less social species use social support, though they get support from anyone while the more social species interact with their mate after fights (Logan et al. 2013a & 2013b). I highlighted population differences in social coatis (a raccoon relative) by finding that, in one population, adult males play with juveniles rather than prey on them (Logan & Longino 2013). I also hypothesized that the unique ecology of birds that follow army ants could influence their cognition, making them a new system for investigating memory and future planning (Logan et al. 2011).
2012 PhD Experimental Psychology University of Cambridge
2004 BS Biology The Evergreen State College, WA USA
2002 AA Biology/Drama Skagit Valley College, WA USA
Currently accepting PhD students. Interested? Contact Corina
New Caledonian crows discriminate between water volumes, inhibit causal knowledge, but don't infer a hidden causal mechanism: UCSB news, Nat Geo blog, Futureproof interview (starts at 25:20), Moncrieff show interview (starts at 36:52)
Got a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Cambridge for 2015-2018!
Junior scientists are sceptical of sceptics of open access
I'm quoted in MacLean's Don't call them bird brains
Need to study the whole brain to know if non-humans imagine themselves in the past and future
Into the Minds of Birds a Science Feature on a new bird brain scanning technique
Watch my New Caledonian crow vlog at National Geographic Explorers Journal!
Does sitting next to your mate reduce your chance of receiving aggression after a fight? Rooks=yes, jackdaws=no
My wild grackle project just became an exhibit at the Santa Barbara Zoo!
Awarded a National Geographic Society / Waitt Grant to study cognition in great-tailed grackles! See the Gates Cambridge news release
I co-authored a recommendation with Nicky Clayton on what we must do to keep women in science for a Nature Blog by Soapbox Science