The Team at the Clever Canine Lab
Alex Taylor is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland. He set up the Clever Canine Lab in 2017 after being awarded the Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Award and a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship.
“For me, understanding how animals think is one of the biggest mysteries in science. We are more sure about what happened in the first few seconds after the big bang, some 13.7 billion years ago, than we are about exactly what thoughts are passing through the minds of our pets. Our lab hopes to change this.”
Patrick Neilands is a PhD student at the University of Auckland. Whilst completing his B.Sc. in zoology and a M.Sc. in evolutionary and comparative psychology at the University of St Andrews, he developed a keen interest in animal cognition and the question of how animals understand the world around them.
“Having previously worked with the great apes and baboons, dogs may seem a more mundane study species but, thanks to their unique relationship with humans, nothing could be further from the truth. I am particularly interested in the cognitive mechanisms that dogs use to navigate their way through social interactions with human beings.”
Rebecca Hassall holds a B.Sc. Hons in applied animal behaviour and welfare, a M.Sc. in cognitive neuroscience and has over 15 years’ experience working with dogs, as a trainer, behavioural consultant and husbandry manager. She is now undertaking her PhD at the University of Auckland.
“I’ve always loved animals, especially dogs. After years of pleading, I was given my first best friend at age 12. I developed such a close bond with Bonnie. I grew to see her as not just a pet, but a special, emotional, thinking individual just like you and me.
This bond showed me my calling in life. I wanted not only to work with animals, but to understand them, know their thoughts, minds and feelings. I wanted to share my understanding, using it to teach other people to treat animals with the respect and love they deserve. This put me on my path to becoming a scientist, specialising in the study of canine behaviour and cognition.”
Amalia Bastos holds a B.A. Hons. in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford, where she discovered her passion for the study of animal cognition. She is now undertaking a PhD in comparative psychology at the University of Auckland.
Having worked previously with Goffin cockatoos, New Caledonian crows and Kea, she is now hoping to learn more about minds of dogs and the incredible bond they can form with humans.
“I grew up owning all sorts of pets, and have been around dogs for as long as I can remember. I have a great love of dogs and I am fascinated by how they have cooperated with humans for thousands of years, shaping us as we have shaped them.”
Ivy Ren is studying for her Honours in Psychology with the University of Auckland. Her research interest is social intelligence in dogs.
“I think it’s incredible that dogs and humans, two completely different species, are able to live together harmoniously. Dogs are a huge part of our community and we cherish them as companions. I’ve grown up with all kinds of pets, but mostly with dogs as a part of my life, and always feel the happiest when I’m around them. My now 7 month old puppy is the joy of my life. It would be interesting to understand the mechanisms that underlie some of the social behaviours we find fascinating. The dog lab will help me to put some of the theories into practice and generally understand more about our canine friends. Through them, hopefully we can understand more about our own evolutionary past.”
Billy Lim is completing his B.Sc. Honours in Psychology at the University of Auckland. His research interest is in the social intelligence and the cognitive biases in dogs.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that ‘dogs are the best kind of people’ and having lived with them, I can agree. But what is it about dogs that makes them so socially adept? It’s fascinating to me that humans and dogs – two very different species – can coexist and complement each other so well. The Clever Canine Lab is a fantastic opportunity for us to learn more about the cognitive mechanisms of dogs and what makes them ‘man’s best friend’.”
Jessica Valley is completing her B.A. Honours year in Psychology at the University of Auckland. Her research interest is in emotion expression in dogs.
“I absolutely love animals, especially dogs. I have always grown up with them and it amazes me how humans have developed a unique connection with them. Animals have a way of reaching out to a person and affecting them in so many ways, yet we know so little about our canine pals. The Clever Canine Lab hopes to change that, and I am honoured to be a part of their research.”
Romana Gruber is a Ph.D. Student at the University of Auckland. She holds a B.Sc. in Biology from the Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck, and a M.Sc. in Ethology, Neurobiology and Cognition from the University of Vienna, where she worked for 2 years with Goffin cockatoos. In 2016 she was a Field and Research Assistant at the New Caledonian Crow Project.
“Growing up, I’ve been surrounded by animals all the time, which raised my interest immensely. I was fascinated by their behaviour, their interactions with humans, the way animals influence humans, and how animals conquer even the most remote corners of the world. The way animals look at you, be it dogs, cats, birds, dolphins etc. made we wonder, what they are thinking, and especially how they are solving problems. The work with the wonderful Goffin cockatoos and the New Caledonian crows showed me that I’m on the right track to maybe answer the question what animals are thinking.”
Healthy Pet Foods
The Clever Canine Lab is proud to be sponsored by Healthy Pet Foods. Our mission to discover how dogs think is driven by a passion to understand our four legged friends, as well as a sincere concern for their health and wellbeing. We are therefore committed to using only nutritionally balanced pet food products which meet our high standards. Healthy Pet Foods generous donation of treats and food allows us to be confident that we can give our Clever Canines quality products, and great nutrition.
You can find out more about our sponsor at their website www.healthypetfoods.co.nz.