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Dr Alex Weir

Dr Alex Weir

I left the Behavioural Ecology Research Group in April 2008, having been here for my DPhil (2001-2005 funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of the 4-year Doctoral Programme in Neuroscience), and later as a postdoctoral researcher (2005-2008) funded funded by a three-year BBSRC research grant. I was also a Nicholas-Kurti Junior Research Fellow at Brasenose College from 2005-2008.

My general research interests were in animal and human cognition and behavioural neuroscience, viewed from an evolutionary perspective. My research involved studying the cognitive psychology of tool use in New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides), endemic to the islands of New Caledonia in the south Pacific. These crows make and use a variety of complex tools from twigs and leaves in the wild, and the objective of my work was to identify what is special about them to have allowed the development of such unusual behaviour. I studied both how their unusual behaviour develops, and investigated the cognitive processes involved in their tool use by devising problems for them to solve.

Another of my research interests is in the science of animal welfare, stimulated by the research of my wife, Charlotte Burn. Apart from work, I enjoy reading good books, listening to music, travelling, walking, photography, and scuba diving. Through several months spent carrying out research in Indonesian rainforests and working for an ecotourism organisation (Operation Wallacea) just off Sulawesi, I also have a keen interest in that part of the world.


Academic thesis

Weir, A.A.S. (2005). Cognitive psychology of tool use in New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides). DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Download a [PDF] here. (6 MB; images are compressed and therefore poor quality)

Journal articles

Rutz, C., Bluff, L.A., Weir, A.A.S., & Kacelnik, A. (2007). Video cameras on wild birds. Science 318: 765. DOI 10.1126/science.1146788. Download a [PDF] here.

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. Download a [PDF] here.

Kenward, B., Rutz, C., Weir, A.A.S., & Kacelnik, A. (2006). Development of tool use in New Caledonian crows: inherited action patterns and social influence. Animal Behaviour 72: 1329-1343. DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2006.04.007. Download a [PDF] here.

Weir, A.A.S., & Kacelnik, A. (2006). A New Caledonian crow (Corvus moneduloides) creatively re-designs tools by bending or unbending aluminium strips. Animal Cognition 9: 317-334. DOI 10.1007/s10071-006-0052-5. Download a [PDF] here.

Kenward, B., Weir, A.A.S., Rutz, C., & Kacelnik, A. (2005). Tool manufacture by naive juvenile crows. Nature 433: 121. DOI 10.1038/433121a. Download a [PDF] here.

Kenward, B., Rutz, C., Weir, A.A.S., Chappell, J., & Kacelnik, A. (2004). Morphology and sexual dimorphism of the New Caledonian Crow Corvus moneduloides, with notes on its behaviour and ecology. Ibis 146: 652-660. DOI 10.1111/j.1474-919x.2004.00299.x. Download a [PDF] here.

Weir, A.A.S., Kenward, B., Chappell, J., & Kacelnik, A. (2004). Lateralization of tool use in New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B (Suppl.) 271: S344–S346. DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2004.0183. Download a [PDF] here.

Weir, A.A.S., Chappell, J., & Kacelnik, A. (2002). Shaping of hooks in New Caledonian crows. Science 297: 981. DOI 10.1126/science.1073433. Download a [PDF] here.

Book chapters

Kacelnik, A., Chappell, J., Weir, A.A.S., & Kenward, B. (2006). Cognitive adaptations for tool-related behaviour in New Caledonian Crows. In: Comparative cognition: experimental explorations of animal intelligence (eds. Wasserman, E.A., & Zentall, T.R.), pp. 515-528. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Download a [PDF] here.

Kacelnik, A., Chappell, J., Weir, A.A.S., & Kenward, B. (2004). Tool use and manufacture in birds. In: Encyclopedia of animal behavior (ed. Bekoff, M.), Vol. 3, pp. 1067-1069. Westport, CT, US: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Popular science

Weir, A.A.S. (2005). Animal Cameo: New Caledonian crow - Corvus moneduloides. In Feedback - The ASAB education newsletter 35 (May): 4.