Tel: +44 1865 271179
My brief research history can be summarised as a progression towards ever-smaller islands – from Australia to Great Britain to New Caledonia.
I did my BSc at Monash University in Melbourne, majoring in Ecology and Evolution. My major undergraduate research project assessed the rationality of foraging decisions made by ant colonies. For my Honours degree (awarded on the basis of an autonomous, year-long research project), I dissected thousands of smelly snails in a vain attempt to revolutionise host-parasite co-evolutionary theory. While at Monash, I also dipped my toe in freshwater ecology, looking at the determinants of community composition within the refugia of a drought-affected stream network.
After surviving one Oxford winter, I was overjoyed to begin my D.Phil. fieldwork on wild New Caledonian crows. Although this research is conceptually centred on the species' exceptional tool-oriented behaviour, in practice the project spans the sub-disciplines of zoology, from comparative cognition to foraging ecology to population dynamics. Our research approach, while sympathetic to Oxford’s strong tradition in the study of animal behaviour, relies on the innovative use of technology to deliver novel results. Field methods range from traditional boots-and-binoculars to 'roll-your-own' electronic gadgets that allow us to gather data from undisturbed crows. Hopefully, the recent publication of our first results from the 'crowcam' project vindicates my childhood hours spent dismantling household electrical appliances!
I aspire one day to deliver my inaugural lecture as a Professor of Zoology ... from a small beach boulder, on an incoming tide.
Bluff, L.A., Weir, A.A.S., Rutz, C., Wimpenny, J.H. & Kacelnik, A. (2007). Tool-related cognition in New Caledonian crows. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews 2: 1-25. Link to online source. [pdf]
Rutz, C., and Bluff, L.A. (2008). Animal-borne imaging takes wing, or the dawn of 'wildlife video-tracking'. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23, 292-294. [doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2008.01.011] [pdf] (joint first authors)