Spatial cognition refers to how an individual encodes the properties of their environment to orient and navigate. This is an essential ability for ambulatory animals (including humans) to locate food, mates, and home. Our lab studies what stimuli are important for re-orientation and navigation and how the preferential use of these stimuli differ across species, age, and sex. We explore the biological and cognitive mechanisms underlying this ability, and what they mean for theories of navigation. Some examples of research questions we ask related to spatial cognition are:”
- How are featural and geometric cues used to guide reorientation?
- How do Clark’s nutcrackers locate their tens of thousands of seed caches?
- How does Alzheimer’s disease affect navigation ability in older adults?
Living in large social groups has traditionally been thought of as an evolutionary precursor to complex cognitive abilities. This assumption was based on the impressive cognitive abilities of social living species. However, rarely have non-social species been studied. Our lab investigates how the sociality of a species influences the behaviour and cognitive abilities of our study species. Research questions we are examining include:
- How do the food cache-protection strategies of social and non-social birds differ?
- How does sociality influence cognitive abilities such as Same/Different discrimination?
- What are the prerequisites and mechanisms of mirror self-recognition?
- How does personality influence an individual’s cognitive abilities?
- Which factors underlie self-control?
Dogs are an integral part of many people’s lives. Dogs have evolved side-by-side with humans for tens of thousands of years. Therefore, our understanding of canine cognition is applicable to all who interact daily with dogs. Our lab has asked questions such as:
- Do dogs experience positive affect when engaged in cognitive experiments?
- Does diet affect self-regulation behavior in sled dogs?
- Are there breed differences in self-control?
Our lab recognizes the important connection between animals, humans and our environment. Our research uses a One Welfare approach to study the relationship between animals and humans with a focus on cognition and wellbeing.
- Does a human’s experience of stress influence their dog’s stress?
- Do dogs understand the meaning behind a human’s pointing gesture?
- What is the relationship between dogs and Indigenous communities across Canada?