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Christmas 2020 Lab Party on Zoom, playing our version of "Two Truths, One Lie" game. From left to right: Ming Ye, Jamie DuBois, Izzy Crampton, Daniel Pini, James Davies, Ning Ding, Dr Alizee Vernouillet, Dr Maria Cabrera, Dr Nishant Kumar, Dr Gabrielle Davidson, Francesca Cornero, Prof Nicky Clayton, Dr Rachael Miller (Harrison), Maria Loconsole, Dr Tom Liu, Elias Garcia-Pelegrin, Ben Farrar (missing Emily Danby, Dr Alex Schnell, Dr Luigi Baciadonna)

Current CCL Members:

Prof. Nicky Clayton: Professor of Comparative Cognition, FRS

I am interested in the development and evolution of cognition, in both humans and non-human animals, particularly corvids. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. Together with Clive Wilkins, I am co-founder of The Captured Thought, the Founding Director of the Cambridge Centre for the Integration of Science, Technology, and Culture, and an Honourary Director of Studies and Advisor for China-UK Development Centre. I have been the 2019 President of the British Association, Psychology section. I am also a dancer, collaborating with Clive Wilkins and Mark Baldwin. I am Scientist in Residence at Rambert, the UK's flagship touring dance company (originally called Ballet Rambert). 

Dr Rachael Miller (Harrison): Research Associate (2015-2019); Research Associate/ Lab Manager (2019-present)

I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate/ Lab Manager at the Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, in Prof. Clayton’s Comparative Cognition Lab (CCL), funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant awarded to Prof Clayton. I am broadly interested in the evolution of cognition, using comparative, ecological and developmental approaches. My Postdoc research focuses on testing cognition in humans (children and adults) and corvids (crow family), with a particular focus on self-control, behavioural flexibility, responses to novelty, social learning and reasoning about cause and effect. I am also leading two independent research projects as Principal Investigator: Cognition in Animal Conservation Project, applying cognitive findings to conservation initiatives in a critically endangered species; and "ManyBirds" Project, with a team of early career researchers, establishing a multi-site collaborative project on avian cognition research. In addition, I am responsible for teaching (lectures, practicals, exams) on Psychology and Zoology Department Undergraduate courses, supervising/ co-supervising students, lab/ grant administration and assisting Prof Clayton with managing the CCL. My website: 

Dr Alex SchnellRoyal Society Newton International Fellow (March 2019-present); Research Fellow of Darwin College (Oct 2018-present)

Alex is a comparative psychologist and a behavioural ecologist with a background in marine biology. Her research interests centre on complex learning and memory mechanisms in animals and how these abilities have evolved across diverse taxa. Her primary model species include cephalopods (octopus, cuttlefish, and squid) and corvids (members of the crow family) but she also has work experience working with elephants, freshwater fish, and juvenile crocodiles. In addition to her interest in cognitive evolution, she also has an interest in sensory ecology, neuro-ethology, sentience, and welfare. She has previously held several post-doctoral positions, which were based at two leading cephalopod research facilities including the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, USA and the Centre de Recherches en Environnement Cotier in Normandy, France.

​Dr Gabrielle Davidson: Leverhulme-Newton Trust Early Career Research Fellow

Gabrielle is a comparative psychologist and a behavioural ecologist with a keen interest in the development, function and evolution of cognition through the study of individual differences within species. She is currently investigating the interplay between the microbial community in the gut (microbiome) and host behaviour and cognition and has used both great tits (Parus major) and pond snails (Lymnaea stagnalis) as study systems. As the foundations of her research depend on good measures of cognitive traits, she has focused on developing rigorous cognitive tasks to investigate the causes and consequences of variation in intelligence in wild populations. Other interests include predator-prey interactions and her doctoral work investigated how wild birds (rooks, jackdaws, crows and great tits) responded to where others are looking (i.e. gaze sensitivity), and how this influences decision-making when foraging, finding nesting locations, guarding chicks and escaping predators.

Elias Garcia-Pelegrin: PhD Student (2019-present)

Before starting my PhD, I used to be a research assistant at Nicky Clayton's Comparative Cognition Lab. I am a researcher in Comparative Cognition and Evolutionary Psychology. My current research focusses on the use of magic effects to investigate attention and perception in corvids, cetaceans and primates, as well as the evolution of human artistic practices in the Upper Palaeolithic. 

Ning Ding: PhD Student (2018-present)

I am a PhD student supervised by Prof. Nicky Clayton. I earned my bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of St Andrews and completed Masters course at the Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge. I am broadly interested in children's cognitive development, especially their ability to think and plan for the future. As a native Chinese, my research also investigate the influence of culture on children's cognitive development and parenting practices.

Ben Farrar: PhD Student (2017-present)

I am a PhD student supervised by Professor Nicky Clayton and Dr Ljerka Ostojic. My research focuses on bias, statistical inference and replication in animal behaviour and cognition, using a mixed-methods approach. I am further interested in research and publication practices across science, and give talks on the academic incentive structure, publication decisions, and open science. I participate in the Cambridge Data Champions programme, helping to guide the proper and FAIR use of research data, and have organised the Cambridge ReproducibiliTea journal club. 

Jamie DuBois: PhD Student (2019-present)

I am a PhD student working under the supervision of Professor Nicky Clayton at the Comparative Cognition Lab. My love for comparative cognition started during my undergraduate studies when I worked as a neuroscience research assistant in Dr Brent Cooper’s lab at TCU where I conducted my honours thesis for the John V. Roach Honors College on vocal learning in Bengalese finches. I then went on to earn my MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. There, I conducted research with Professor Josep Call on face-name recognition in chimpanzees at the Budongo Research Unit in the Edinburgh Zoo. Currently, my research interests include vocal learning and imitation as well as auditory perception, especially in the avian family. I also have interests in domestication and the effects this can have on animal cognition.

Francesca Cornero: PhD Student (2020-present)

I'm conducting comparative cognition research with African Grey parrots and rooks under a Herchel Smith Postgraduate Fellowship from Harvard University. I am interested in social learning, theory of mind, and metacognition, among other concepts. I was previously a research assistant at the Pepperberg Avian Cognition Lab at Harvard University, where I conducted research on disjunctive syllogism, visual working memory, Piagetian liquid "overconservation", referential communication, and more, and received my MPhil in Psychology from the University of Cambridge, conducting mirror self-recognition research with Eurasian jays also at the Comparative Cognition Lab.

Emily Danby: PhD Student (2019-present)

I am currently working towards my PhD in avian cognition having previously been in neuroscience research and science publication. Birds are a fascinating model to study animal intelligence due to their long evolutionary divergence from us. Recent experiments are probing the importance of the senses in cognition in Eurasian jays. I am also planning fieldwork to investigate cognition and sociality in populations of wild blue tits and great tits. I am interested in perception, sociality, how behaviour differs in captive vs. wild environments and also in how cognition may be affected by circadian rhythms. For my master’s thesis I looked at the effects of jet lag on the behavioural rhythms, neurochemistry and cognition of mice.

James Davies: PhD Student (2020-present)

I am a PhD student supervised by Professor Nicky Clayton. I am broadly interested in the evolution of the mind and consciousness, both in humans and non-human animals. My current research focuses on mental time travel, specifically elements of episodic(-like) memory, in Eurasian jays and wild great tits and blue tits.

Ming Ye: MPhil Student (2020-present)

I am a MPhil student supervised by Professor Nicky Clayton. I finished my bachelor’s study in Experimental Medicine at Peking University Health Science Centre and earned my first Master degree in Psychology at Peking University. Meanwhile, I worked as a student research assistant at Peking University No.6 Hospital during my undergraduate stage conducting research about the auditory hallucination symptom in schizophrenia. My research interests include perspective taking, mindreading, executive function and human visual perception. As a native Chinese, my current research intends to discuss the cross-cultural influence on people’s visual perspective taking ability.

Dr Luigi Baciadonna: Post-doctoral Research Assistant (2018-present)

I joined Nicky Clayton's Comparative Cognition lab in September 2018 as Post-Doctoral Research Assistant within the project "Reflecting on tests of animal consciousness: birds as a model", funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and awarded to Dr Nathan J. Emery (Queen Mary University of London) and Prof Nicola Clayton. My broad research interest is the study of animal cognition and behaviour with a focus on the emotion-cognition interface. Currently, I am working on a project that investigates how consciousness evolved and whether non-human animals are self-aware.

Dr. Nishant Kumar; Visiting Fellow (Oxford) and Collaborator, CCL (2020 - Present)

I am a researcher jointly based at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Banaras Hindu University, and the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford University (EGI). In Delhi, I study opportunistic animal responses to resources provided by humans, and how centuries of coexistence have tied urban ecology of commensals with religiously founded patronage and ritual animal feeding by people. Currently, I am interested in understanding the socio-economic impacts of scavenging ecosystem services provided by opportunistic commensals and how their biocultural links are vital for a sustainable urban future in South Asia. Therefore, with Prof. (s) Ben Sheldon (EGI), Greger Larson (School of Archeology, Oxford), Yadvendradev V Jhala and Qamar Qureshi (WII), and Oxford India Centre, I founded a collaborative network of experts called PAWS-Web (see This team has academicians (sciences and beyond), practitioners, administrators and policymakers for actionable research on urban spaces that are contested due to their finitude and dynamic characterisation between People, Animals and Waste Systems (PAWS-Web). My research examines complex interactions between cultural, evolutionary and demographic processes. With Prof. Nicky Clayton and CCL, I aim to address questions around interplays and mutual-invagination of human and non-human animal niches in the urbanising tropics.

Maria Loconsole: PhD Student

I am currently a final year Ph.D. student in Padua (Università degli Studi di Padova). 

Daniel Pini: BSc Student

Isabelle Crampton: BSc Student

Nathaniel Wright: BSc Student

Clive Wilkins: Artist in Residence

I am a fine-art painter and a writer, and a Member of the Magician's Circle (MMC). I have exhibited  at the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy and in private galleries in Cork Street, London – including a one-man show in 2007. Wilkins has produced portraits of Sir Howard Hodgkin and Sir Peter Blake among others and has been presented publicly to HRH Princess Royal. Wilkins' writing and paintings have been in print on numerous occasions, most notably in his published work 'The Creatures in the Night', a story written and lavishly illustrated by Wilkins in 2008. 'The Moustachio Quartet', a series of four novels~ 'Caruso Maelstrom', 'Count Zapik', 'Xavier Mannikin' and 'Eissenstrom' explore mental time travel and question consciousness. As a performer and magician I am particularly interested in the nature of cognitive illusion and the psychology of perception. Together with Nicky Clayton, I am co-founder of The Captured Thought, and an Honourary Director of Studies and Advisor for China-UK Development Centre.  

Former CCL PhD Students and Postdoctoral Researchers:


Dates in Lab

Position in the lab

Current position

J Dally



City Strategic Partnerships Lead, British Petroleum, UK.

A Seed



Senior Lecturer, Uni of St Andrews, UK

A Helme



Senior Research Info Manager, Cancer Research, UK

C Teufel



Lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Cardiff

C Raby



PDR, University of Vienna, Austria

S Tebbich



Lecturer, University of Vienna, Austria

S Stevens



Data Scientist, AutoScout24, Germany

C Logan





Group Leader, Max Planck Institute Leipzig, Germany

L Cheke



University Lecturer, Uni of Cambridge, UK

A Thornton



Associate Professor, Uni of Exeter, UK

A Taylor



Associate Professor, Uni of Auckland, New Zealand

U Grodzinski



VP of Product, YouGov Signal, Israel

A Watanabe



PDR, Uni of Tokyo, Japan

R Shaw



Royal Society New Zealand Rutherford Discovery Fellow and Lecturer, University of Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand

J Thom



PDR, Dept. Philosophy, Kings College London, UK

L Kelley



Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow and Lecturer, Uni Exeter, UK

A Greggor



PDR, San Diego Zoo, USA

E Legg



Marie Curie Research Fellow, Uni of Trieste, Italy

K Brecht



PDR, Psychology Dept, Uni of Tubingen, Germany

K Davies



Clinical Development Manager GlaxoSmithKline, UK

S Jelbert



Teaching Associate, Bristol Uni, UK

J Plotnik



Assistant Professor at Hunter College, New York; Founder and Executive Director at Think Elephants International, Inc

S Samuels



Senior Research Officer, University of Essex

M Boeckle



Psychotherapist, Austria; Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, Karl Landsteiner Private University, Austria

L Ostojic



Researcher in Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education, Sweden

R Crosby



Analyst at Costello Medical, Cambridge, UK

A Frohnwieser



Research Administrator, Uni of Cambridge, UK

C Troisi



PDR, Uni of Ghent, Belgium

L Baciadonna



PDR, Uni of Turin, Italy

A Vernouillet



PDR, Uni of Ghent, Belgium

M Cabrera



PDR, Fish Ethology and Welfare Group, Centro de Ciencias do Mar, Portugal

P Amodio



Leverhulme Trust SAS Fellow & PDR, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Italy

P Billard



Recently completed PhD


    Professor Ian Apperley, University of Birmingham
    Professor Cristina Atance, University of Ottawa
    Mr Mark Baldwin, Artistic Director, Rambert Dance Company

    Dr Lucy Cheke, University of Cambridge
    Dr Nathan Emery, Queen Mary University of London
    Professor Alison Gopnik, University of California at Berkeley
    Professor Russell Gray, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena
    Professor Paul Hatchett, Emerson College
    Dr Robert Lurz, Brooklyn College, CUNY
    Professor Andrew Meltzoff, University of Washington
    Dr Alex Taylor, University of Auckland


    Comparative Cognition Lab.