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

mp3 download 

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 (, and also a member of the Lewa Canada Board, a nonprofit foundation established to support the work of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy ( 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.

mp3 download