I studied Zoology at Nottingham, and then went on to do a DPhil on animal communication in Oxford. I came to Newcastle in 1998, first as a Sir James Knott Research Fellow, and then as a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow. During this time, I worked on various aspects of animal communication, particularly looking at how animals combine signalled information in multiple sensory modalities. I became a Reader in Animal Behaviour and Cognition in 2008, and am currently Co-Director of the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution.
I work on the sensory and cognitive processes of animals in an evolutionary context. During my DPhil, I developed an interest in 'multimodal communication', where information is transferred betwen animals in more than one sensory modality. By studying the multimodal warning signals of toxic insect prey to their avian predators, I showed how cognitive systems can select for complex signalling. I also became interested in how animal signals evolve, leading to collaborations with Leena Lindstrom (Jyvaskyla) and Carel ten Cate (Leiden). More recently, my research has focussed on how predators make optimal foraging decisions when faced with a variety of palatable and toxic prey, and the implications of these decision-making processes on the evolution of prey defence strategies. Much of this work has been developed in collaboration with John Skelhorn (Newcastle) and Christina Halpin (Newcastle), and we are working with Andy Higginson (Bristol) to develop novel models for the evolution of prey defences based on our data.
I am also interested in the evolution of cognitive processes, and their neural bases, and work with Sue Healy (St Andrews) in this area. I am starting a new project looking at how sensory systems may co-evove in an insect predator, the praying mantis, and how specialisation in sensory, cognitive and neural systems affect camouflage and aposematic signals.
I also apply my expertise in animal cognition and behaviour to address important questions in animal welfare. I currently have two PhD students working on laboratory animal welfare, investigating ways to assess welfare in rats and primates and improve experimental protocols and husbandry procedures.
My work is supported by the BBSRC, NERC, NC3Rs, the Royal Society, and the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
Grant Panel membership: 2010-2012 BBSRC Training Awards Committee; 2013-2015 NC3Rs Grant Panel; 2013-2015 Norwegian Research Council (Chair in 2014); 2013 BBSRC CASE Sudentship Panel; 2014-2016 BBSRC Panel A.
Editorships: 2008-2013 Editor for Behavioral Ecology; 2014 Guest Editor of Behavioral Processes 'Cognition in the wild' Special Issue; 2015-2017 Associate Editor Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Other: Secretary for the Association for the Sudy of Animal Behaviour 2007-2012; Member of an Athena SWAN Assessment Committee 2013.
I have also lead the Institute's application for an Athena SWAN Silver Award, and am involved in the University's Athena SWAN application and am Chair of NU Women (the University's network for women staff). I am also the Institute's Equality and Diversity Officer.