Tuesday 28 June 2016

Episode 19 - Kristy Biolsi

Kristy's subjects seem to like her a lot
Kristy Biolsi is an Associate Professor of Psychology at St. Francis College in Brooklyn NY, where she also serves as the Director of the BA/MA Program in Applied Psychology.  She is a co-editor for the journal Aquatic Mammals, serves on the editorial board for the Journal of the Association for the Study of Ethical Behavior and Evolutionary Biology in Literature (ASEBL), is a co-founder of the Evolutionary Studies Collaborative, and is the co-founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Pinniped Ecology and Cognition (C-SPEC) housed at SFC.  

She received her B.S. in Psychobiology from Long Island University, Southampton College in 2001 and in 2007 she received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

Her research focus was on marine mammal cognition and while at Long Marine Lab, UCSC, she worked specifically with the Pinniped Cognition and Sensory Systems Lab.  Her current research interests are in comparative cognition, focusing on marine mammals, and she has two main lines of scientific inquiry; laboratory work that is conducted at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead NY investigating discrimination learning and categorization with two captive, trained, California sea lions and field work which consists of data collection from surveys and naturalisticobservations of the local wild harbor seal population.  We even touched on some theoretical stuff about animal morality.

Thanks again to Red Arms for letting me mash up their music with the ending theme, buy their music now.

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Wednesday 27 April 2016

Episode 18 - Emma Tecwyn

Emma Tecwyn is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Daphna Buchsbaum’s Computational Cognitive Development Lab in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto (which is the school I went to, thus making Emma the coolest guest so far on the show). She does research in the overlapping areas of comparative cognition and cognitive development to answer questions about the evolution and development of cognitive abilities. 

Emma and a friend
Emma has a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Birmingham, UK. During her undergraduate degree she spent a year studying at the Freie Universitat in Berlin, Germany, where she took classes in animal behaviour and primatology, which sparked her interest in animal cognition. She subsequently obtained an MSc in Animal Behaviour from Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, where she did research on grazing interactions between wild and domestic herbivores on a Kenyan game reserve. She later returned to Birmingham to complete her PhD on great ape physical cognition under the supervision of Jackie Chappell and Susannah Thorpe, where she focussed on whether orangutans, bonobos and children can plan sequences of actions to solve physical problems. She then spent a year in Amanda Seed’s lab at the University of St Andrews in Scotland working on causal sequence imitation and probabilistic inference in capuchin monkeys, before moving to Toronto in November 2014.

Emma’s current lines of research include physical reasoning in dogs, causal sequence imitation in dogs and toddlers, and how different species and children of different ages weight and integrate their physical knowledge and social information. 

We talked about Emma's research, about the recent Conference on Comparative Cognition, and about the GTA Animal Cognition Group, which she coordinates.  Oh and how philosophy of animal mind is a thing.

Thanks again to Red Arms for letting me mash up their music with the ending theme, buy their music now.

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Thursday 11 February 2016

Episode 17 - Reggie Gazes

Reggie Gazes is an assistant professor of psychology and animal behaviour at Bucknell University in Lewisburg Pennsylvania.

Reggie and a pal, wondering why Hampton won't do the podcast
Reggie has a BS from Bucknell in Animal Behaviour and a PhD from Emory University where she worked under the supervision of Rob Hampton.  I first met Reggie at CO3 a few years back through Rob.  Rob and I were students in Sara Shettleworth's lab in the 90s.  (As usual, I can turn any of these posts into posts about me).  Reggie later did a postdoc at Zoo Atlanta.

Her work looks at the evolutionary roots of behaviour and cognition using a comparative approach.  She and her students look at things like memory, space and magnitude in four different species of primates (capuchin and squirrel monkeys as well as Hamadryas baboons and lion tailed macaques).  The social housing they use allows them to look at social stuff as well.

We talked about her work about transitive inference in infants and monkeys as well as a bunch of other stuff.

Thanks again to Red Arms for letting me mash up their music with the ending theme, buy their music now.

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Friday 5 February 2016

Episode 16 - Eric Legge

Hey look, it's Eric's Facebook pic!
Eric Legge is a part time instructor at the University of Alberta and at McEwan University, both in Edmonton Alberta.

Look, I've known Eric since he was 17.  I taught him intro psych at the Memorial University of Newfoundland's Genfell campus in Corner Brook, and he worked in my lab while there.  Indeed, I am pretty sure that was the highlight of his career and everything after that was downhill.

Actually, Eric went on to grad school at the University of Alberta and worked with Marcia Spetch.  (I may have written him a letter of recommendation for that, one sec...)  Yes I did write him a letter, in that I told the story of Eric carrying around a little notebook called 'research ideas' everywhere.  One day in my learning class he and I got into a discussion and we designed three experiments.  Then we both realized we had lost the class and I went back to talking about the Rescorla-Wagner model.

We talked about Eric's work on searching for hidden objects in adult humans, his very cool ant navigation stuff and his early stuff on the hierarchical organization of cues in pigeons (I think I was reviewer B on that one...)

Thanks again to Red Arms for letting me mash up their music in the closing theme, buy their music now.

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Monday 1 February 2016

Episode 15 - Tom Zentall

Thomas Zentall is a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.

Tom, the pigeon whisperer
Tom's research interests focus on cognitive behaviours in animals including memory strategies, concept learning, and social learning. The approach Tom and his students  use is to define a cognitive behaviour that is characteristic of humans in a way that clearly distinguishes it from simple associative (SR) learning and then to examine the conditions under which it can be found in animals. This approach not only examines the relatively unexplored repertoire of animal behaviour that has been thought to distinguish humans from other animals, but it also develops relatively simple training techniques that may be useful in training developmentally delayed and learning disabled humans to use concepts and strategies. 

Tom has contributed a great deal to the field of comparative cognition, so much so that the Comparative Cognitiion Society had him give the master lecture at CO3 in 2014.

Thanks to Red Arms for letting me mash up their music in the closing theme, buy their music now

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Wednesday 27 January 2016

Episode 14 - Ed Wasserman

Edward A. Wasserman is a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa.

Work in Ed's lab focusses on animal cognition and perception and the similarities and differences between humans and non humans in categorization, perception and memory.

He's picking out the next story for the CO3 Facebook group
I could write this great long biography of Ed, but, you know what?  There is a great long biography of Ed online, so you could go read it!  (There's also Ed's wikipedia article, which some editor named 'dbrodbeck' wrote). Among other things it mentions that he started out as a physics major, that he spent a year with a major of 'undecided' (I love that) and that he has been interested in the big problems and little problems in animal learning and memory for 40 odd years.

I first met Ed at a conference at Dalhousie University in 1989.  I was a lowly MA student in Sara Shettleworth's lab.  Sara sent me to this thing and it literally changed my life.  I got to meet people like Ed and Al Kamil and I realized that there was just so much cool stuff out there and that the range of problems we can look at is mind boggling.

We talked about how Ed got into the field, his theoretical stance and how it relates to violins (really) and of course his recent paper about cancer detecting pigeons.

Ed and his colleagues and students have been working on big questions like discrimination and categorization for a long time.  In 2015 the Comparative Cognition Society recognized Ed's work by having him give the master lecture at CO3.

Thanks to Red Arms for letting me mash up their music in the closing theme, buy their music now

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Wednesday 20 January 2016

Episode 13 - Suzanne MacDonald

She once drew on the back of my neck for no reason
Suzanne E.MacDonald is a professor in the Department of Psychology at York University, appointed to the graduate programs in both Psychology and Biology.  She received her PhD in animal learning and behavior from the University of Alberta, and then did postdoctoral work at the University of British Columbia, before moving to York in 1990.   In addition to maintaining an active research and teaching career, Suzanne has held several senior administrative positions at York, including Associate Vice President (Research), and most recently, five years as Chair of the Department of Psychology.  

She has three main areas of research expertise:

·      Memory and cognition (“how animals think”)
·      Psychological well-being of captive animals
·      The impact of human activity on wildlife

Her research is conducted both in the field, at sites in Kenya, Costa Rica and throughout Southern Ontario, as well as at the Toronto Zoo, where she has volunteered as their “Behaviorist” for over 25 years.   She served on the Zoo’s Board of Management and Zoo Foundation Board for several years.   She also served as a Board member for the Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation (COTERC), and helped to establish a biological field station near Tortuguero, Costa Rica.  She continues to work in Costa Rica, as part of the project team to build a York facility in Las Nubes, near San Isidro.  Currently, she is a member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Polar Bear Institute (www.polarbearhabitat.ca), and also a member of the Lewa Canada Board, a nonprofit foundation established to support the work of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (www.lewa.org) in northern Kenya.

We talked about all kinds of cool stuff, including Suzanne's work with orang-utans, elephants and racoons.

Follow Suzanne on twitter.

Thanks again to Red Arms for letting me mash up their music in the closing theme. Buy their music now.

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