© 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 and follow the grackle adventures on Twitter #TheGrackleProject
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)
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Shift academic culture through publishing choices. Gates press, F1000 blog
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!