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.”
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.”
Amey Zhang holds a B.A. in Biology and Studio Art from Dartmouth College and is interested in animals, culture, and science communication. She is researching animal cognition at the University of Auckland on a postgraduate fellowship.
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.