I am a senior lecturer in cognitive evolution at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus. My research has taken me across the world, working with a variety of species including meerkats, jackdaws, prawns and humans. The common theme is a desire to understand how the challenges animals (including human animals) face in their natural environments shape the evolution of cognition and culture.
After a childhood in Mexico City, I moved to the UK and studied biology in Oxford. I then moved to Cambridge to do a PhD examining how interactions with adults help meerkat pups learn to forage for themselves. Following my PhD, I took up a Drapers’ Company Research Fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge, focusing on the cultural transmission of information in meerkat groups. This work led me to spend much of my time wandering around the Kalahari Desert, but in 2010 I was awarded a David Phillips Research Fellowship from the BBSRC to investigate the evolution of intelligence in wild jackdaws. Most recently, I have become interested in the cognitive processes that enable humans, uniquely among other animals, to generate cumulative culture. The ESRC-funded Cultural Minds project aims to tackle this issue, incorporating ideas and methods from evolutionary biology, anthropology and cognitive psychology.
I am the head of the Wild Cognition Research Group and a member of the Human Biological and Cultural Evolution Group.