Lab members


Current group members
[Simon Reader]

Simon Reader (PI)
My research interests are on the group homepage.

[Ana Navarrete] Ana Navarrete (Postdoctoral Fellow, based at St Andrews University with Kevin Laland)

I specialize in comparative analyses to identify evolutionary patterns on brain evolution. My actual research project focuses on the evolution of brain size and innovation in primates. To study this issue, I will compile a reliable primate brain dataset and analyze the data using causal statistics to find the most likely cause promoting primate encephalization.

[Guppy] Adam Reddon (Tomlinson and NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow)
[Adam's webpage - Google Scholar]

I am interested in the behavioural biology of social living. I have a particular fascination with both aggression and sociality and I endeavor to better understand these behaviours through the integration of functional, developmental and mechanistic perspectives. My Ph.D. work focused on social decision making in the contexts of grouping behaviour and resource contests. During my postdoctoral work I plan to examine the effects of maternal experience on the social behaviour and physiology of her offspring.
[Sarah Turner] Sarah Turner (Postdoctoral Fellow, Chapman & Reader Labs)
[Sarah's webpage]

I study the consequences of physical disability for free-ranging Japanese macaques Macaca fuscata with congenital limb malformations. In my current field project, Infant disability and infant handling in free-ranging Japanese macaques, I am testing hypotheses about the adaptive significance of infant handling, and examining how disability, ecological and social variables may affect infant handling and infant behaviour at the Awajishima Monkey Center in Japan.

*Sarah discusses her latest paper on Quirks and Quarks (Feb. 22, 2014).

*Sarah's book 'Ribbon's Way' has won the Animal Behavior Society's Outstanding Children's Book award
[Ioannis Leris] Ioannis Leris (PhD Candidate, Utrecht & McGill Universities)
[Ioannis's webpage
- Google Scholar]

In my PhD I intend to examine how social learning can affect fitness in a group. I am particularly interested in how fish gather and integrate information from different sources, how this information is utilized during dispersal and movement to novel environments and whether this information can be socially transmitted to other conspecifics. Different strains (wild, domesticated and feral) of the very familiar guppy (Poecilia reticulata), a widely known model for evolutionary ecology with well-studied social behaviour, will be used in the experimental work.
[Maria Cabrera] Maria Cabrera (PhD Candidate)

I am interested in studying the effects of aggression and competition on social and asocial learning in several guppy populations (Poecilia reticulata). I also want to study how the neuropeptides vasotocin and isotocin influence these behaviour patterns.
[Paul Sims] Paul Sims (PhD Candidate)
[Paul's webpage - Google Scholar]

I am broadly interested in behavioural ecology, centered around animal innovation, social learning and cultural transmission. My dissertation research will focus on understanding the ecological significance of social learning and innovation. I plan to examine evolutionary selection pressures, functional benefits, and how social learning and innovation influence some of the mechanisms underlying population dynamics such as growth, dispersal, and distribution. I will investigate these questions through lab and field experiments in combination with modeling techniques and the help of various taxa, including the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata) and Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus).
[Laura] Laura Chouinard-Thuly (PhD Candidate)
[Laura's website]

I study intraspecific differences in social learning in the Trinidadian guppy, researching whether individuals display consistent tendencies to use social information. I am also interested in how social learning differs between populations of wild guppies varying in their native habitats, and how this affects the transmission of information.

Undergraduate students working with us
[Kenny Liu]

Kenny Liu (Undergraduate Work Study student)

I am a U1 Anatomy and Cell Biology student and I hope to develop a deeper understanding of fish behaviour due to various environmental and social stimuli, as well as its role in brain development and evolution, and carry out possible research.
[Guppy] Lisa Xu (Undergraduate Work Study student)

As a McGill Undergraduate (U2) student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree with a passion for Psychology and Neuroscience, I have great interest in the neural basis of behaviour.  I am currently participating in projects at the Reader Lab focusing on aggression and competitive behaviour patterns in guppies, as well as social foraging in sticklebacks.

Geervani Daggupati (Undergraduate Work Study student)

I am a second year undergraduate student pursuing a Biological Sciences/Biomedical Sciences/Life Sciences program. My research interests focus on understanding and analyzing the many biochemical processes that shaped the evolution of life on Earth.
[Sofija] Sofija Bekarovska (Undergraduate Work Study student)

I am a UO undergraduate science student, pursuing my bachelor's degree in the Life Sciences program at McGill. I enjoy working with animals and am interested in learning more about the development of their behaviour and immunological processes.
[Guppy] Samantha Bovaird (Undergraduate Work Study student)
[Guppy] Céleste Dubé (Undergraduate Work Study student)
[Guppy] Kyla Germain (Undergraduate Work Study student)
[Guppy] Adrienne Kotler (Undergraduate independent research student)

Working with Sarah Turner.

I am in my final year of my undergraduate degree at McGill where I am pursuing a B.Sc in environmental science, with a minor in anthropology. My interests in environmental science, animal behaviour, and anthropology have led me to take a particular interest in primatology. I am working with Dr. Sarah Turner on an independent project concerning feeding efficiency among disabled Japanese macaques in Awajishima Monkey Centre, Japan.
[Guppy] Kaitlynn Perry (NSERC USRA summer student)
Lab alumni: McGill University
[Lisa Jacquin] Lisa Jacquin (Fyssen Postdoctoral Fellow, Reader & Hendry Labs)
[Lisa's webpage- Google Scholar]

Lisa is now a Lecturer within Evolution and Biological Diversity at the University of Toulouse, France.

My goal is to better understand how parasites can act as selective agents shaping the high intraspecific variability of traits in natural and urban animal populations. The aim of my postdoctoral project (Fyssen Fellowship) at McGill was to investigate the evolution of behavioural and physiological defenses against ectoparasites (Gyrodactylus) in wild populations of the Trinidadian guppy. I'm studying the interplay between parasite exposure, personality and immune defenses to better understand how their interactions can drive the evolution of alternative behavioural and social strategies in aquatic communities. For more details:
[William Swaney] William Swaney (Research Associate)
[Will's webpage]

Will is now a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Epigenetics in the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, UK.

I am interested in the neural underpinnings of environmentally-induced changes in social behaviour, in particular changes that persist through life and across generations. I am working on differences in social behaviour in zebrafish and guppies and exploring the role that the peptide hormones isotocin and vasotocin (members of the oxytocin and vasopressin neuropeptide families) play in these behaviours and how their expression might be influenced by experience and the environment.
[Caroline LeBlond]

Caroline LeBlond (Lab Coordinator)

Caroline is a lab coordinator in the Hendry and Barrett labs.

[Andrew] Andrew Ajisebutu (Undergraduate independent research student)

Worked with Will Swaney.

I am an undergraduate at McGill working towards a degree in Biochemistry and Psychology. I am working on mapping the location of social stimuli processing to specific areas of the fish brain, utilizing the expression of immediate early genes after social exposure. 
[Christine] Christine Dybwad (Undergraduate independent research student)

Worked with Lisa Jacquin. Now a Masters student in Arctic Marine Ecology at the University of Tromsø, Norway.
[Jackie] Jackie Mateluna (Undergraduate independent research student)

Worked with Lisa Jacquin. Now a Masters student in Plant Science at the University of Nottingham, UK.

I am investigating population differences in personality traits across four different populations of Trinidadian guppies to determine the evolutionary effects of predation and parasites. In addition I am investigating the effect of the ectoparasite Gyrodactylus on personality traits as well as on discrimination abilites in the guppy. In the future, I hope to be able to apply my knowledge of  behavioural ecology to the conservation of marine and freshwater ecosystems.
[Iola] Iola Patalas (Undergraduate independent research student)

Worked with Lisa Jacquin.

I just finished my undergraduate degree in Biology at McGill. I am interested in how parasites and predation affect shoaling behaviour and other behavioural traits in fish and whether these effects are evolutionary or environmental.

Katherine Shaw (NSERC USRA summer student)

Now conducting a Masters on electric fish behaviour and behavioural neuroscience with Rüdiger Krahe here at McGill.

Both social and personal information have important effects on individual behaviour. I am interested in how different ecological conditions among populations can influence opportunities for both social and individual learning. I would also like to study how variations in exposure to these information sources can produce behavioural plasticity within a population.

[Lovisa] Lovisa Ljungberg (Undergraduate Work Study student)
[Guppy] Madalina Prostean (Undergraduate Work Study student)
[Guppy] Michael Saminsky (Undergraduate special topics student)

Worked on experimental evolution of guppies with Kiyoko Gotanda and Andrew Hendry.
[Guppy] Ruth Chang (Volunteer)

Worked with Lisa Jacquin.
[Guppy] Lisa (Yiran) Duan (Volunteer)

Worked with Lisa Jacquin.
Lab alumni: Utrecht University
  Still under construction: please see this page.
[Guppy] Emma Robat (Masters internship student, Utrecht University)
[Charlotte] Charlotte Lindeyer (AIO/PhD Student, funded by Utrecht's High Potential programme)
[Charlotte's webpage]

I finished my Masters in Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences at the Department of Biology in Leiden early 2008. During my studies I looked at female mate choice in Lake Victoria cichlids both in the field and in the lab. Also, I studied the behaviour and distribution of bottlenose dolphins around the Azores. At present, I am studying the influences of neuropeptides and genetics on social behaviour in zebrafish. I am examining social and individual learning and social affiliation, and how peptide administrations affect such behaviour. In a later stage of my research I will look at developmental influences on social behaviour and peptide sensitivity.
[Nelly] Nelly Mühlhoff, née Schmücking (Diploma student, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; now studying veterinary medicine in Leipzig)

In the course of my studies I focused on behavioural biology in general. During my assistantship at the Max Planck Institute Berlin I worked on experience and delayed gratification in bonobos and temporal discounting in lemurs. Now my main interests are in temporal and spatial discounting in humans and nonhuman animals, with my diploma thesis on social influences on discounting in guppies.
[Alexandra] Alexandra de Sousa (Postdoc, funded by the Portuguese FCT)
[Alexandra's webpage]

Alexandra is co-supervised by Eugenia Cunha at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Alexandra is working on primate brain evolution, and currently focusing on the evolution of the insula and claustrum. The work is being carried at Queen Mary University of London.


Susie Hewlett (Masters student, UU)

Now a PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University.

I am working with a group of domestic and a group of feral guppies that, due to their different environments, appear to demonstrate different social behaviours. I will compare the distribution of isotocin and vasotocin neurons to see if the differences in their environments can be seen in their social neural circuitry.


Esperanza Jubera (Erasmus student). Now in the Neurasmus program in Berlin.

After two years of specialization in Environmental Studies at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, I wanted to know more about the mechanisms that underlie individual decision making. The goal of my internship with guppies is to try to shed some light on decisions under informational conflicts, specifically when fish have to choose between using information from familiar individuals versus more recent information but from unfamiliar individuals.


Esther Langen (Masters student, UU)

Now a PhD student in the Department of Animal Behaviour at the University of Bielefeld: her website.

I will be investigating social preferences of zebrafish by looking at their shoaling behaviour and how this behaviour is influenced by isotocin and vasotocin, peptides already known for their influence on social behaviour in other species. In addition, I will be looking at the effects of different rearing environments on social behaviour later in life.

[Mari] Mari van Lunenburg (Masters student, UU)

My general interest is in animal (including human) behaviour and the underlying neurological mechanisms. During this internship I will study social learning in zebrafish in a foraging task. Additionally I want to look at the influence of isotocin and vasotocin on this social learning.

Michelle Spierings (Masters student, UU)

Now a PhD student in Behavioural Biology at the University of Leiden: her website.

Behavioural biology has always been my favourite part of biology. I think it’s interesting how animals can use information from each other and how they gain knowledge by observation. During my internship on guppies, I’m looking at context-specific learning. Are guppies able to learn to use social information in one context and to avoid or ignore it in the other?

[Orlin] Orlin Todorov (Masters student, Groningen University)

I have a broad interest in the evolutionary origins of the complex nervous systems that made possible the emergence of intelligent behavior and cognition. Currently I am working on a neuroimaging study through which I will try to trace the evolutionary changes in brain areas related to executive functions in primates. Changes in these prefrontal areas might have been the cornerstone for development of our complex human culture.
[Brigitte] Brigitte Goossens (co-supervised AIO/PhD student with Liesbeth Sterck and Johan Bolhuis at Utrecht University)
Brigitte, while not studying social cognition in macaques, also found time to examine dominance relationships and visual perspective taking in fish. She successfully defended her PhD in December 2008!
[Steven] Steven Hrotic (Postdoc, funded by the NWO Cognition programme. Now a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Interdisciplinarity, University of North Texas)
Steven is an evolutionary anthropologist, and in Utrecht was working on factors favouring and hindering cumulative cultural evolution.

Matthew Bruce (Postdoc, funded by the NWO Evolution and Behaviour programme. Now at the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research).

Matt joined us to work on the development of social learning strategies in fish.

[Matt's webpage - Google Scholar]

[Ulf] Ulf Toelch (Postdoc, funded by the NWO Evolution and Behaviour programme. Now a postdoctoral fellow within the Cognitive Neurobiology group, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

[Google Scholar]

Ulf, based in the Human Innovation group at Utrecht, was working on social learning strategies in humans, and occasionally in guppies.
[Neeltje] Neeltje Boogert (co-supervised specialisatiefase student working with Kevin Laland at St. Andrews Universit. After a PhD student with Louis Lefebvre, McGill University, Neeltje is now a postdoc in the School of Psychology & Neuroscience at the University of St. Andrews)

[Neeltje's webpage - Google Scholar]

Project: Predicting the origin and spread of innovations in starlings (2005).
[Marusha] Marusha Dekleva (Masters student, University of Copenhagen, now a PhD student with Liesbeth Sterck, Utrecht University)
Project: Innovation and social learning in long-tailed macaques (2006).
  Marjolijn van Delft (Masters student, Leiden University, now daily project manager of a Smart Mix consortium at Leiden’s Institute of Biology)
Project: Social learning strategies in humans (2007).
  Ana Gomez Narvaez (Masters student, currently completing a second Masters at Utrecht)
Project: Ana, from sunny California, was studying social learning strategies in humans (2008).
  Gregory Kohn (Masters student, now a PhD student with Meredith West & Andrew King at Indiana University Bloomington)
[Greg's webpage - Google Scholar]

Project: Demonstrator preferences in guppies (2009).
  Lieke Mevis (Masters student, now a PhD student with Timothy Roper at the University of Sussex)
Project: Social learning in long-tailed macaques, in particular the diffusion patterns of innovations through groups (2006).
  Vera Sarkol (Masters student, now a PhD student at Queen Mary University of London with Alex Mesoudi)
Project: Pilot project on cumulative cultural evolution (2009)
  Sanne de Viet (Masters student in Science Teacher Education, now taking a year out as Erasmus student coordinator before continuing her teacher training)
Project: Volumetric measurements of primate brains using MRI (2009).
  Tjerk Bieringa (Specialisatiefase student, now a software engineer at Sogeti)
Project: Primate innovation and climatic variability (2006).
  Natalie Le Brun (RA, now a PhD student at the University of Durham with Rachel Kendal late 2009)
Natalie was studying social learning in guppies, she is now applying social learning to conservation biology.
  Arjen Buschman (Masters student in Science Teacher Education, now training to be a teacher)
Project: Social learning of food preferences in guppies (2008).
  Hilco Jansma (co-supervised specialisatiefase student, Groningen University, now at Altenburg & Wymenga ecological consultants)
Project: Mirror self-recognition in dolphins (2005).
  Anna Oleksiak (Masters student, now a PhD student with Richard van Wezel, Utrecht University)
Project: Behavioural flexibility, modularity, and extinction risk in primates (2004).
  Susan Peeters (Masters student, now working on animal ethics at UvA/Nijmegen)
Project: Innovation and social learning in the guppy (2005).
  Einat Peled (Specialisatiefase student, now a PhD-student at the Technion Institute of Technology)
Project: Learning and nest-site selection in rooks (2005).
  Hanneke Poot (Specialisatiefase student, now a PhD-student at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology)
Project: Relocation of rook colonies (2005).
  Susanne Rebers (Specialisatiefase student, now a PhD student with Ruud Koopmans at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Project: exploration, innovation, and learning strategies in guppies (2005).
  Marianne Rekers (Specialisatiefase student)
Project: Sexual selection, innovation, social learning and nonhuman primate brain evolution (2005).
  Harm Wouter Snippe (Specialisatiefase student, now a web developer/assistant researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research: email)
Project: Innovation and social learning in guppies (2004)