David Sherry, Emeritus Distinguished Professor, Psychology and Biology

I received my PhD from the University of Toronto and was a postdoc in the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology at the University of Oxford. I am a PI at Western’s Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR). I served as Director of Western’s Graduate Program in Neuroscience 2005-2011 and was founding Director of Western’s Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience. I have served as an editor or editorial board member of the journals Animal Behaviour, Behaviour, and Biology Letters, and I am currently a member of the advisory committee of the CIFAR Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness. My research examines the specializations in cognition and the brain that accompany food storing, brood parasitism, and migration in birds.

Christopher Course, PhD Candidate, Biology

I did my MSc at Brock University in 2011 on the social organization of carpenter bees. I am interested in how social groups form and dissolve and the role of dominance in structuring social groups. For my PhD research, I am using a Motus local array to track the activity of winter flocks of radio-tagged black-capped chickadees. Shared radio-profiles of individuals allow me to identify flock mates (verified by field observation) and continously track flock membership, movement between flocks, daily activity, and the spring break up of flocks as birds establish breeding territories.

Maddie Brodbeck, PhD Candidate, Psychology

I completed my Master’s degree in 2017, co-supervised by David Sherry and Professor Scott MacDougall-Shackleton. In my thesis research, I used touchscreen tasks to test the involvement of the hippocampus in spatial and non-spatial memory in brown-headed cowbirds and developed – with much help from Professor Steve Lomber – a cryoloop for reversibly cooling the avian hippocampus. For my PhD, I am using immediate early gene expression to examine the role of Cluster N in orientation by migratory songbirds. Twitter: @MaddBrod

Jeff Martin, PhD Candidate, Biology

I completed my Master’s in Biology at AFAR in 2017 with research on the effect of winter temperature on problem solving and the onset of reproduction in black-capped chickadees. I have also worked with Sophie Edwards, Tanya Shoot and Sue Healy on nest building. My PhD research examines caching behaviour and the cache management strategies of Canada jays. I am particularly interested in how jays balance their own nutritional needs with those of offspring that they feed from caches.

Recent Lab Members

Gloria Cho MSc

I completed my Master’s degree in Psychology at Western in 2020, co-supervised by David Sherry and Professor Bill Roberts.  My research examined whether learning and memory abilities vary with social dominance status in Black-capped chickadees.  I assessed dominance in multiple flocks of six birds each and observed performance in working and reference memory aspects of a spatial task and a colour association task.  I found no evidence that cognitive ability varied with dominance, although, interestingly, there were consistent differences between flocks in average level of performance. 

Dr. Caroline Strang PhD, Postdoc University of Texas at Austin

I completed my PhD on behavioural flexibility in bumblebees in 2018, supervised by David Sherry. I have also studied serial reversal learning in bumblebees, compared cognition in bumblebees and honeybees, and guest edited with Bill Roberts a special issue of Learning and Motivation on bee and insect cognition. I am also interested in the interaction between memory systems. I worked in Bill Roberts’s lab on memory systems and the role of context in their interaction. In 2018 – 2019 I was a Research Associate at AFAR, co-supervised by David Sherry and Professor Robert Hampton (Emory University), working with Emily Brown on memory systems of food-storing and non-storing birds. I am currently a postdoc in Professor Felicity Muth’s lab at the University of Texas at Austin working on the evolution of cognition in bees.

Dr. Emily Brown PhD, Postdoc Emory University

I completed my PhD at Emory University in 2018, supervised by Professor Robert Hampton. My primary research interests are metacognition and metamemory. In 2016 – 2017 I conducted research in the Sherry lab on the cognitive control of memory in food-caching and non-caching birds for my PhD thesis. I used an automated touchscreen apparatus to collect data on black-capped chickadees and dark-eyed juncos as they performed self-initiated memory trials in semi-natural conditions. Methods of this kind allow us to observe and understand cognition in the natural context in which it occurs. My website: Emily Brown.

Charlotte Kruger BSc, MSc Candidate, McGill University

I completed my BSc in Biology in 2019 in the Sherry Lab on the interaction between temperature and photoperiod in the onset of reproduction in black-capped chickadees. Working with Jeff Martin, I measured gonadal development, androgen levels, and vocalizations of birds that experienced different combinations of temperature and photoperiod in environmental chambers at AFAR. I am now an MSc student at McGill University, working in Professor Steve Lomber’s Cerebral Systems Laboratory on the auditory system of cats.

Tanya Shoot MSc, PhD Candidate, Wilfrid Laurier University

I finished my MSc in Neuroscience at Western in 2019, co-supervised by David Sherry and Professor Mark Daley. Working with a large dataset on incubation behaviour by zebra finches that I had collected as an undergraduate, I examined how temperature conditions and previous experience affected incubation behaviour. I developed a Hidden Markov Model to examine whether incubation behaviour could be predicted from temperature in the nest and found that birds maintained a remarkably stable nest temperature despite variation in their behaviour. I also collaborated with Sophie Edwards, Jeff Martin, and Sue Healy investigating how temperature and previous breeding success affect nest building. I am doing my PhD in Professor Noam Miller’s lab, modelling how individual traits affect group decision-making, using zebrafish (Danio rerio) and guppies (Poecilia reticulata) as model organisms. My website: Tanya Shoot.

Jordan Phelps MSc, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

I did my MSc in 2018 on the effects of the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid on flower handling by bumblebees. I had previously found in undergraduate research that bees exposed to field realistic levels of imidacloprid were slower than unexposed bees to associate floral color with the sucrose concentration of nectar. In my Master’s work I found that exposed bees were slower than unexposed bees to learn a task – developed by Caroline Strang – that simulates flower handling. In my PhD research, I am looking at people’s attitudes toward environmental issues such as the consumption of GM foods.

Dr. Sophie Edwards PhD, Associate Lecturer, University of St Andrews

I completed my PhD at the University of St Andrews in 2019 supervised by Professors Sue Healy and Simone Meddle (University of Edinburgh). My main interests are in animal behaviour and the mechanisms and enviromental factors that control behaviour. Much of my research has focussed on nest building by birds. In the Sherry Lab I worked with Tanya Shoot and Jeff Martin on the influence of temperature and previous breeding experience on nest building by zebra finches. My website: Sophie Edwards.

Nicole Guitar MSc, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences, Western University

I completed my MSc in 2016 on foraging strategies in black-capped chickadees and the effect of inhibiting hippocampal neurogenesis on reversal learning. In the latter study, I found that reduced neurogenesis had no overall effect on working or reference memory but instead made it more difficult for birds to reverse previously learned associations. In my PhD research, I am looking at the effects of exercise on executive function in older adults with Alzheimer’s type dementia.

Dr. Mélanie Guigueno PhD, Assistant Professor, McGill University

I completed my PhD in 2015, co-supervised by David Sherry and Professor Scott MacDougall-Shackleton. My thesis research examined sex differences in spatial memory in brood parasitic brown-headed cowbirds and seasonal change in the hippocampus and vocal control nuclei of cowbirds. At AFAR, I collaborated with Professor Diano Marrone’s lab (Wilfrid Laurier University) in research on neuronal activity in the hippocampus during spatial search by cowbirds. My current research uses field and laboratory approaches to study behaviour and the brain of avian brood parasites. My website: Mélanie Guigueno

Dr. Cristovam Guerreiro Diniz PhD, Professor, Instituto Federal de Educação Ciência e Tecnologia do Pará, Bragança Brazil

I received my PhD in 2013 from the Universidade Federal do Pará, supervised by Professor Cristovam Wanderley Picanço Diniz. In 2012 I conducted research at AFAR and travelled to the Bay of Fundy as part of a student exchange program with the Sherry Lab. Using samples collected in the Bay of Fundy and at Isla Canela in Brazil we have examined hippocampal neurogenesis and astrocyte morphology in a long distance migrant, the semipalmated sandpiper, and compared neurogenesis and astrocyte morphology in shorebirds that differ in their migratory strategies. In my lab at IFPA Bragança we conduct research on the molecular biology and neuroecology of animals of the Amazon.

Dr. Nara Gyzely de Morais Magalhães PhD, Instituto Federal de Educação Ciência e Tecnologia do Pará, Bragança Brazil

I received my PhD in 2017 from the Universidade Federal do Pará, supervised by Professor Cristovam Wanderley Picanço Diniz. In a student exhange program with the Sherry Lab in 2012 I worked with students from AFAR at the Laboratório de Neurodegeneração e Infecção in Belém Brazil and and travelled to AFAR and the Bay of Fundy in Canada. My research examines the distribution of cryptochrome in the retina of shorebirds along with hippocampal neurogenesis, astrocyte morphology, and the influence of migratory strategy on the hippocampus of shorebirds. I am currently at the molecular biology and neuroecology laboratory (LBN) within IFPA / Campus de Bragança.

Dr. Zach Hall PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Alberta

I completed my MSc in Biology in 2011 on the song control system of starlings, supervised by Professor Scott MacDougall-Shackleton. While at AFAR I worked on two projects with the Sherry Lab, one examining the effects on spatial learning of inhibiting hippocampal neurogenesis and the other as part of a large collaboration on the effects of wind tunnel flight exercise on hippocampal neurogenesis in birds. I did my PhD with Professor Sue Healy at the University of St Andrews and a postdoc with Professor Vince Tropepe at the University of Toronto. I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta where my lab uses a zebrafish model to examine sensory experience and brain development.