I completed my MSc in August 2015 and PhD in August 2019 in the Songbird Neuroethology Laboratory under Dr. Christopher B. Sturdy's supervision. My graduate studies investigated predator-prey relationships and the perception and communication, studying black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), a non-migratory North American songbird. Songbirds are part of a small number of species considered to be vocal learners - like humans, they need to learn their species-specific vocalizations from a model. Directly connected to that notion, I am also working to provide further evidence for referential communication in songbirds by utilizing a number of experimental techniques, including auditory playbacks and operant conditioning.
Of the many projects that I completed during my PhD, I was involved in two collaborations outside of the Department of Psychology. First, I was involved in an international collaboration investigating if humans are capable of detecting arousal level within the animal vocalizations of several species. In addition, we completed a comparative operant experiment to extend this study with chickadees. Second, I collaborated with the Department of Biological Sciences to investigate chickadee perception of threat with regard to signal degradation, and to determine if chickadees perceive anthropogenic and synthetic noises as similar to predator calls.
In addition to my dissertation studies, I assisted Dr. Marcia Spetch with extensive research conducted on desert harvester ant (Veromessor pergandei) navigation in Arizona throughout my PhD. Four of these six years of graduate studies were funded by NSERC (NSERC CGSM and CGS D).
While gaining additional sessional experience at both the University of Alberta (Fall19, Winter20) and Concordia University of Edmonton (Fall20, Winter21), I have been writing and publishing additional songbird-focused manuscripts, as well as a review paper on the navigational techniques of desert animals.
Recently, I have (remotely) initiated a postdoctoral research position at York University, in collaboration with Toronto Zoo and the tech company EAIGLE Inc. to build artificial intelligence to monitor and further improve the well-being of orangutans. I look forward to transitioning to working with Dr. Suzanne MacDonald and my orangutan colleagues in-person at the Toronto Zoo this Fall!
Personal History March 2021-Present: Postdoctoral Researcher, York University/Toronto Zoo/EAIGLE Inc. (Dr. Suzanne MacDonald; Mitacs Accelerate/Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy)
Sep 2020-Present: Sessional Instructor, Concordia University of Edmonton, teaching online undergraduate PSY 104 courses
Sep 2019-Aug 2020: Researcher, University of Alberta, publishing completed dissertation (Dr. Christopher B. Sturdy) & non-dissertation research in completing contractual work (Dr. Marcia Spetch)
Jan 2020-April 2020: Textbook Test Bank Editor, Nelson Education Ltd., Discovering Psychology: The Science of Mind (1st Canadian Edition)
Sep 2019-April 2020: Sessional Instructor, University of Alberta, teaching undergraduate courses: PSYCO 104/282/381/485
Sep 2015-Aug 2019: Graduate Student (PhD), University of Alberta, research on the neuroethology of songbird communication with Dr. Christopher B. Sturdy
Nov 2017, Apr-May 2018, & Oct 2018: Research Assistant, University of Alberta, research on the navigational abilities of desert harvester ants (Veromessor pergandei) in Arizona with Dr. Marcia Spetch.
Sep 2013-Sep 2015: Graduate Student (MSc), University of Alberta, research on the neuroethology of songbird communication with Dr. Christopher B. Sturdy
Jan 2013-Sep 2013: Research Assistant/NSERC USRA Student, Algoma University, research on songbird communication with Dr. Laurie Bloomfield
Aug 2012-Dec 2012: Research Assistant, Algoma University, research on sensory feedback for motor skill acquisition with Dr. Dwayne Keough
Sep 2011-Aug 2012: Research Assistant, Algoma University, research on auditory feedback with Dr. Dwayne Keough