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Department of Psychology


Gabrielle is an Early Career Research Fellow funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Isaac Newton Trust studying microbiome and cognition in wild birds. Gabrielle obtained a First Class Honours BSc Zoology at University College London, after which she worked as a Research Assistant looking at gene mutations associated with hereditary neuropathies in human families. She completed her PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge in 2014 where she studied behaviour in wild corvids (birds of the crow family). As a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, she studied the development of causal reasoning in juvenile Eurasian jays. At University College Cork, Ireland she was a Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher where she studied proximate mechanisms of individual variation in cognitive abilities in great tits (Parus major). 


Gabrielle is a comparative psychologist, behavioural ecologist and molecular biologist 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 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. 


Key publications: 

Davidson, GL, Raulo, A, Knowles, SCL (2021) Laboratory-inspired manipulations hold value for wild microbiome-behaviour research. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. In Press.

Davidson, GL, Somers, SE, Wiley, N, Johnson, CN, Reichert, MS, Ross, RP, Stanton, C, Quinn JL. (2021) A time-lagged association between the gut microbiome, nestling growth and nestling survival in wild great tits. Journal of Animal Ecology, In Press.
Davidson, GL, Wiley, N, Cooke, AC, Johnson, CN, Fouhy, F, Reichert, MS, de la Hera, I, Crane, JMS, Kulahci, IG, Ross PR, Stanton, C, Quinn, JL (2020)  Diet induces parallel changes to the gut microbiota and problem solving performance in a wild bird. Scientific Reports. 10, 20783.
Davidson, GL, Raulo, A, Knowles, SCL (2020) Identifying microbiome-mediated behaviour in wild vertebrates. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. In Press.
Davidson, GL, Cooke, A, Johnson, C, Quinn, J. (2018) The microbiome as a driver of individual variation in cognition and functional behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 373(1756).

Davidson, GL, Clayton, NS, Thornton, A. (2017). Evolution of iris colour in relation to cavity nesting and parental care in passerine birds. Biology Letters. 13:1

Davidson, GL, Miller, R, Loissel, E, Cheke, L, Clayton, NS. (2017) The development of support intuitions and object causality in juvenile Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius). Scientific Reports 7: 40062.

Davidson, GL & Clayton, NS. (2015). New perspectives in gaze sensitivity research. Learning and Behavior. DOI 10.3758/s13420-015-0204-z.

Davidson, G, Clayton, NS, Thornton, A. (2015) Wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula) recognise individual humans and may respond to gaze direction with defensive behaviour. Animal Behaviour108:17-24.

Davidson, GL, Clayton, NS, Thornton, A. (2014) Salient eyes deter conspecific nest intruders in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula). Biology Letters10:1-4.

Davidson, GL, Butler, S, Fernández-Juricic, E, Thornton, A, Clayton, NS. (2013) Gaze sensitivity: function and mechanisms from sensory and cognitive perspectives. Animal Behaviour87:3-15.


Other publications: 

Michael S. Reichert, MS, Crofts, SJ, Davidson, GL, Firth, JA, Kulahci, IG, Quinn ,JL (2020) Multiple factors affect discrimination learning performance, but not between-individual variation, in wild mixed-species flocks of birds. Royal Society Open Science. 7:192107.

Davidson, GL,  Reichert, MS, Crane, JMS, O’Shea, W, Quinn, JL. (2018) Repeatable aversion across threat types is linked with life history traits but is dependent on how aversion is measured. Royal Society Open Science. 5(2):172218

Helden, A.J., Morley, G.J., Davidson, G.L., Turner, E.C. (2018) What can we do for urban insect biodiversity? Applying lessons from ecological research. Zoosymposia. 12: 51-63

Davidson, GL (2017) Directed versus averted gaze. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. 1-3

Davidson, GL, Murphy, SM, Polke, JM, Davis, MB, Houlden, H, Reilly, MM, collaborators of the MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases (2012) Frequency of mutations in the genes associated with hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy in a UK cohort. Journal of Neurology. 259(8):1673-85.

Other Professional Activities


Dr Sarah Dalesman - Aberystwyth University

Dr Sarah Knowles, University of Oxford

Dr Josh Firth, University of Oxford

Shane Somers, University College Cork

Aura Raulo, University of Oxford

Professor Catherine Stanton - APC Microbiome Ireland

Dr Crystal Johnson - APC Microbiome Ireland

Niamh Wiley - APC Microbiome Ireland


Professor Nicola Clayton - University of Cambridge

Professor John Quinn - University College Cork

Dr Alex Thornton - University of Exeter

Professor Henry Houlden - Institute of Neurology, University College London

Current Phd Students: 

Amy Cooke - University College Cork

Jennifer Coomes - University College Cork

Leverhulme-Newton Trust Early Career Research Fellow

Contact Details

Department of Psychology ,Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EB
Sub Department of Animal Behaviour, High Street Madingley CB23 8AA
Person keywords: 
executive function
cognitive development
Not available for consultancy