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Dr Joanna Wimpenny

Dr Joanna Wimpenny
Tel: +44 1865 271245

My first degree was in Zoology, at the University of Bristol. It was here that I developed a strong interest in animal behaviour, and had the opportunity to enhance this by assisting with various research projects: examining kin relationships in salmonids (Dr Sian Griffiths); testosterone effects on begging behaviour in pied flycatchers (Dr Kate Buchanan); and the effect of developmental stress on male quality and female choice in zebra finches (Dr Karen Spencer).

I left Bristol in 2004 and moved to Oxford to begin my DPhil, working under the supervision of Prof Alex Kacelnik and Dr Alex Weir on cognition in New Caledonian crows. Members of this one species show routine manufacture and use of tools, behaviour that has traditionally been associated only with the great apes. Our research aims to uncover more about these crows, both in the field and the laboratory. My thesis specifically explores 'physical' cognition; I am interested in whether non-human animals show intelligent, flexible problem-solving by invoking abstraction or understanding about the causal features of a task. For example, I have looked at tool choice - are the crows selective when presented with an array of tool types? More importantly, is this selectivity flexible, i.e. appropriate even when the task changes? I have also looked at tool manufacture, and planning behaviour by setting problems where sequences of tools must be used. Further work shall delve deeper into the cognitive ability of this fascinating species.


Spencer, K. A., Wimpenny, J. H., Buchanan, K. L., Lovell, P. G., Goldsmith, A. R. & Catchpole, C. K. (2005) Developmental stress affects male song attractiveness and female choice in the zebra finch. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 58: 423-428.

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.

Wimpenny J.H, Weir A.A.S., Clayton L., Rutz C., Kacelnik A. (2009) Cognitive Processes Associated with Sequential Tool Use in New Caledonian Crows. PLoS ONE 4(8): e6471. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006471.