Zebra finches are monogamous, forming a pair-bond with their mate for life. Previous research suggests that males and females in these pair-bonds are better parents when they both have similar personalities to one another. Highly exploratory females raised chicks with higher fitness when they were paired with highly exploratory male (Schuett et al. 2011). On the other hand, there is also evidence that highly exploratory males are faster at sampling but poorer at detecting seeds in a foraging task, so perhaps there is a speed-accuracy tradeoff to this a behavioral type (David et al. 2011). Therefore, it could be advantageous for individuals of a pair-bond to represent both sides of this continuum (dissimilar personalities from one another). We are examining the benefits of different personality combinations between members of a pair bond by pairing males and females with either similar or dissimilar personalities and comparing their performance on cognitive tasks. We also seek to determine if sex differences exist in zebra finch personality.
David, M., Cézilly, F., & Giraldeau, L. A. (2011). Personality affects zebra finch feeding success in a producer–scrounger game. Animal Behaviour, 82(1), 61-67.
Schuett, W., Dall, S. R., & Royle, N. J. (2011). Pairs of zebra finches with similar "personalities" make better parents. Animal Behaviour, 81(3), 609-618.
Asian elephants are endangered due to habitat loss and human-elephant conflict (HEC). Elephants often raid farmer’s crops, causing farmers to retaliate by killing the elephants. Humans are also killed in the process, so crop-raiding is dangerous on both sides. We hope that by looking at elephant personality and problem-solving ability, we can learn about ways to mitigate HEC in Asia. For her dissertation, and in collaboration with Dr. Shermin de Silva, Lisa Barrett will assess several personality traits including neophobia, sociality, and aggressiveness in wild elephants in Uda Walawe National Park in Sri Lanka. Lisa will also present elephants with a puzzle box to assess their problem-solving ability and see if there are any correlations with personality, sex, or age in approach time, time to solution, and/or solution method. This work will also be carried out with captive Asian elephants in U.S. zoos.