måndag 24 november 2014

Beautiful ravens

Organizing old photos made me once again realize how beautiful ravens are - even when they are not in mid-air, wings spread. These photos are all from the first year, when the ravens were less than 6 months old. They look quite big, but compared to adult ravens the bodies are much more slender, beaks are thinner and pointier, and and mouths are still pink. The last picture is from the wild park in Grünau, Austria, where much of the wild raven research is done.


måndag 17 november 2014

Radio documentary

Last spring, Lotta Malmstedt from the Swedish National Radio, started working on her documentary on our raven research. Around a year ago, she did the last recordnings, and yesterday the 50 minute long documentary was sent on radio P1. Listen to it here!

fredag 7 november 2014

New grant from the Swedish Research Council!

Earlier this week, the Swedish Research Council announced the recievers of their International Career Grants, and Mathias turned out to be one of the twentyfour lucky researchers! 
His project "The social intelligence hypothesis and the episodic memory system – the role of memories in the social skills of cognitively complex animals" got funding for four years (starting 2015), which includes full-time employment for Mathias, one PhD-student and part-time employment for a research assistant.

The Career grant aims at developing young researchers both as scientists and leaders, in close collaboration with a foreign University - in this case Thomas Bugnyar's group at the Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna.

The overarching purpose of the project is to investigate the role of memory systems, in particular episodic memory, in complex social life, and thereby provide new insights into the evolution of complex cognition.   

The focus will be on ravens as the University of Vienna and Lund University have the only research facilities for studying raven cognition. This enables the project to test effects of different parameters – such as sex, rank, age and population – in a statistically robust way, which is usually very difficult in raven cognition studies - and up to  20-40 raven subjects can be involved in each of the different studies! Chimpanzees will also be added to one of the set ups, as such comparisons are important in understanding the potential parallel evolution of the cognitive skills. 


torsdag 6 november 2014

Recap summer 2014

Lots of things have happened since my last blog post in May. Maybe the most important thing is that we extended the group with three new wildcaught raven chicks. They all come from nests nearby - the closest only 800 metres away.
Meet Kalle, Embla and Hilda!
Kalle, Embla and Hilda
Although the nests were so close in range, the age of the chicks differed widely. I had been observing the nests a few times per week ever since the females started sitting on the nests, but as many nests are quite deep, and also located high up it's difficult to get a glimpse of the chicks in order to determine their age. The youngest was barely 2 weeks old, and we named him Kalle, since he looked like Donald Duck (Kalle Anka in Swedish) when he first arrived.
The PhD students  - Ivo and Can- were busy all summer documenting the developmental stages of the young, which will later result in a paper on the cognitive development in raven chicks. At the moment all other ravens are also taking part in different studies on planning and physical cognition.

During summer, two new papers were published;  "The future of future-oriented cognition in non-humans: theory and the empirical case of the great apes" (Osvath & Martin-Ordas)
"Independent evolution of similar complex cognitive skills : the importance of embodieddegrees of freedom"(Osvath, Kabadayi & Jacobs)

Mathias also participated in the Social Brain Conference in Copenhagen, contributing with a poster on the contagious play study. The conference hosted several world leading experts on social cognition and its relation to the brain. The participants formed a mix of neurobiologists and animal cognition researchers - a fruitful combination.

After summer we welcomed a new member of the group - master student Russel Reiter. He will take several courses at the station, and most importantly write his master's thesis here on raven cognition.

The seminar room.

In mid October we had our yearly cleaning day of the station, and also the inauguration of the seminar room on the second floor - the "Hugin Hall". When the department of Cognitive Science moved from Kungshuset to the new LUX-house a lot of furniture was left behind - enough to furnish the station's lecture hall, so now we are ready for lectures, symposiums and courses!

The cosy corner.