Mélanie Guigueno – PhD Candidate
My research experience centers on the study of obligate avian brood parasitism, a rare reproductive strategy in which a species relies solely on other species to raise its young. My Honours and M.Sc. (University of Manitoba) focused on host defences, specifically on egg burial and nest desertion in the yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia), a frequent host of the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater). For my PhD, I am currently examining sex and seasonal differences in the behaviour and the brain of brown-headed cowbirds. Females search for nests and males do not, therefore one would predict better spatial performance and a larger hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for spatial memory processing, in females in breeding condition. You can view a video of one of our cowbirds using a touchscreen to assess its spatial memory at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIJq2zDCVGs. I have also had the privilege of conducting additional research abroad on bronzed cowbirds (Molothrus aeneus; Costa Rica), giant cowbirds (Molothrus oryzivorus; Brazil) and on black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla; Alaska). I absolutely love research and feel honoured to be working in the Sherry Lab.
Caroline Strang – PhD Candidate
I started conducting research in animal cognition while completing my BSc. (Hon) in Psychology at the University of Toronto. I came to UWO in 2009 to begin my M.Sc. working with bumblebees (Bombus impatiens), which I completed in 2011. Using the serial reversal task my research demonstrated that bumblebees recognize changes in their environment and modify their behaviour in response, thus they possess behavioural flexibility. For my PhD I am continuing my research on behavioural flexibility in bumblebees by exploring the brain mechanisms underlying learning and memory in bees. I am using the serial reversal task as a behavioural task and will be comparing the performance of bees on the task with the volume of brain structures.
Adam Piraino – MSc Candidate
For my undergraduate degree, I completed a B.A (Honours) in Psychology at Algoma University, in my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. My thesis focused on two important components of tea brewed from the leaves of Camellia Sinensis, Caffeine and L-Theanine, and the interactive effect they have on multitasking. I was also involved in several other research projects, studying steady state visually evoked potentials for use in a brain computer interface, as well as studying feeding behaviour in black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus). Currently, I am a first year M.Sc candidate in the department of Psychology at Western University. I have the honour of working with both Dr. Sherry and Dr. MacDougall-Shackleton during my time here. My research will focus on white matter, an essential component of a functioning brain. To begin, I will examine sex differences in brain white matter of adult zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), with a specific focus on the song control system and its connectivity. To study white matter in the zebra finch brain, I will be using two novel techniques in the area, including immunostaining with myelin basic protein, and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). DTI is a magnetic resonance imaging method, allowing for in vivo repeated measure study of microstructure in the brain.
Marco Alexander Coto (Alex Coto) – BSc candidate
I am a 4th year undergraduate student currently on my way to completing an Honours specialization in biology (BSc). My interest is in looking to see if an animal’s life history may lead to the evolution of specialized cognitive adaptations. In my fourth year Honours thesis project I use touchscreens to investigate whether brown-headed cowbirds, Molothrus ater, (an obligate brood parasite) have developed numerosity in response to the pressures related to selecting a suitable host nest. I am also looking to determine if there are any sex differences related to their ability or not.
Elena Mamycheva – BSc Candidate
My research at AFAR with Dr. David Sherry focuses on learning and memory in black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus). A current goal of ours is to establish a reliable technique for inducing physical exercise in black-capped chickadees, for implementation in a study of retrograde effects of hippocampal neurogenesis on spatial memory. I am currently in the 4th year of my Honors Double Major in Physiology and Psychology (BSc) at Western University.