Alex Kacelnik

Professor of Behavioural Ecology

E.P. Abraham Fellow of Pembroke College


Research Interests

I am interested in decision-making from the joint perspectives of evolutionary biology, ecology, comparative cognition, and economic theory. My research group has two main streams of experimental research, one dealing with the use of tools by New Caledonian crows and the other with the problems raised by decision making under risk (or stochasticity) in starlings and humans. In the former, we deal with both the cognitive mechanisms that underlie this unusual behaviour and the ecological circumstances that led to its evolution and maintenance. This involves studies of field ecology in New Caledonia and cognitive experimentation in the laboratory. In the latter, we integrate normative theoretical models coming from optimal foraging theory and microeconomics with concepts and techniques from operant and developmental psychology and from comparative cognition research. I am also interested in more general issues within behavioural ecology, such as parent-offspring communication, brood parasitism, the distribution of consumers with respect to resources (ideal free distribution), and the evolution of rationality. Further details of my research interests can be found here




Selected Publications

  • Weir, A. A. S., Chappell, J. and Kacelnik, A. (2002) Shaping of hooks in New Caledonian crows. Science, 297, 981.
  • Kenward, B., Weir, A.A.S. Rutz, C. & Kacelnik, A., (2005) Tool manufacture by naive juvenile crows. Nature 433: 121
  • Marsh, B. and Kacelnik, A. (2002). Framing effects and risky decisions in starlings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.99, 3352-3355
  • Pompilio, L., Kacelnik, A., & Behmer. S.T. (2006) State-Dependent Learned Valuation Drives Choice in an Invertebrate. Science. 311: 1613-1615
  • Rutz, C., Bluff, L.A., Weir, A.A.S., & Kacelnik, A. (2007) Video Cameras on Wild Birds. Science. 318: 765