Current Projects

Fashion and Fads in Bird Song

(Lies Zandberg)

Leverhulme ECF funded project. How do conformity and novelty combine to drive cultural evolution? This project examines this question from different angles using corn buntings as a case study.

Cultural Evolution and Pollution

(Marianne Sarfati)

RHUL funded studentship. Song learning is known to be shaped in the laboratory by developmental stress. Outside the laboratory, human activity is amplifying stress in many ways. This project explores whether levels of air pollution predict patterns of cultural evolution and, by inference, learning ability.

Comparative Cultural Evolution

(Warren Horrod-Wilson)

Evolution and Education Trust funded project. Bird song provides a unique opportunity to explore how cultural behaviour evolves and diverges among related species. In this project, we are examining diversity in learning species across bunting (Emberiza) species and using citizen science to collect data from a wider range of species.

Completed Projects

Machine Learning for Bird Song Learning

Lies Zandberg (Project collaborators: Dan Stowell, Veronica Morfi, David Clayton). BBSRC funded project. Bird song research relies on us being able to measure differences between songs - songs that vary in many different acoustic dimensions and across time. In fact, there is no single "objective" way to compare songs. To date the field has relied on human intuition in developing methods that "seem right". In this project, we instead developed methods to capture many thousands of perceptual decisions by zebra finches about which song syllables were simarl, and used these judgements to evaluate existing algorithms and train a new machine learning song comparison method.

(Sarah Jenkins) A collaboration with the Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy, and the Office for Product Safety and Standards.