About Us

DR ALEX TAYLOR, SENIOR LECTURER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND

Alex Taylor is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Auckland, where he leads the Animal Minds Lab. In 2014 he was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, while in 2015 he was awarded the Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Award from the Royal Society of New Zealand.  His research is defined by one question: how do animals really think? Alex studies the minds of humans, dogs, kea and crows, using theoretical and experimental approaches from both biology and psychology, in order to gain insight into this area. This work hopes to uncover if non-human animals have evolved minds with the same types of cognitive and emotional content as that seen in humans.

DR XIMENA NELSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CANTERBURY

Ximena Nelson works in the field of animal behaviour. Her particular interest is to elucidate the causes of complex behaviour and cognition, and investigates this in kea and on jumping spiders. Her research on kea has shed light both on kea foraging behaviour and its ramifications for conservation, and kea communication and cognition. This work has led to new research avenues on the concept of joy in non-human animals.

AMALIA BASTOS, PHD CANDIDATE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND

Amalia Bastos is a PhD Candidate at The University of Auckland. She works with the captive kea population at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, and is interested in comparing cognitive signatures of human cognition and emotion to those of non-human animals, particularly in terms of convergent evolution. Kea provide the perfect model species for this, as they are distantly related to humans but possess something akin to contagious laughter, which so far is thought to be unique among birds.

LYDIA MCLEAN, PHD CANDIDATE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CANTERBURY

Lydia spends a lot of time in the mountains doing fieldwork with wild kea. A keen backcountry tramper and mountaineer, Lydia works alongside the Kea Conservation Trust and the Department of Conservation on their field projects whilst conducting her own research. She is interested in understanding differences in diet and behaviour between kea populations so that conservation management can be better targeted to each population. Her work involves running behavioural tests to find out which birds are most interested in novel objects and how their behaviour is affected by weather conditions, as well as using stable isotopes from kea tissues to find out what the birds have been eating and how this may differ between populations.