The lab. Halloween 2023.


Noam Miller
  Associate Professor

Noam joined the faculty at Laurier in 2014. Before that he was a post-doctoral researcher in Iain Couzin's lab at Princeton, in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. He got his PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto where he worked with Sara Shettleworth and Robert Gerlai. Before that he got a BSc in Biology from Tel-Aviv University, where he also worked with Ilan Golani. His research spans the range from comparative cognition to behavioral ecology but his primary interest is in how taking place in a group shapes individual cognitive functions such as learning and decision-making. Noam currently serves as President of the Comparative Cognition Society. [Noam's CV].

Maggie-Rose Johnston
  Graduate Student (MSc)

Maggie has started her Master's in Behavioral Neuroscience at Laurier. A BSc Honours graduate from McGill, her undergraduate project under Dr. Sarah Woolley has whet her appetite for research. With a long held love of reptiles, social behavior, and learning, she is eager to examine how developmental conditions in the egg can impact cognition in corn snakes (P. guttatus).

Gokulan Nagabaskaran
  Graduate Student (PhD)

Goku is starting his first year as a PhD student in Behavioural Neuroscience at Laurier. He finished his Master’s by Research in Animal Behaviour and Welfare from the University of Lincoln (UK) under the supervision of Dr. Anna Wilkinson, after completion of his HBSc in Zoology at the University of Guelph. His research during this time observed reptilian cognition, with the first portion focused on enriching corn snakes and the latter focused on comparative odour recognition amongst snakes, lizards and tortoises. After his Master’s, Goku spent two years working with a pharmaceutical lab where he studied the effects of novel medicine on animal models. During this time, he also became experienced with strict FDA guidelines, data analysis for various testing procedures and acted as a prosector for terminal studies. Currently he hopes to resume his studies and build on his previous research of snake cognition by observing whether venom quality and quantity can be modified by enrichment.

Britney Sekulovski
  Graduate Student (MSc)

Britney is a master’s student in Behavioral Neuroscience at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a BA honors graduate of the Psychology Research Specialist program, with a minor in Biology from Wilfrid Laurier University, where she completed two directed studies and a thesis under the supervisor of Dr. Noam Miller. Her prior research centred predominantly on the investigation of spatial learning and schooling behaviours in the blind cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus). Presently, her academic pursuits focus on exploring the impact of environmental uncertainty on personality, learning capabilities, and decision-making processes in the zebrafish (Danio rerio).

Tanya Shoot
  Graduate Student (PhD)

Tanya is in the fourth year of their PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience at Laurier. They are a BSc Honours graduate of the Neuroscience program at the University of Western Ontario where they worked under the supervision of Dr. David Sherry, in collaboration with Dr. Susan Healy (University of St. Andrews, Scotland). While at Western, they studied how zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) change their nest-building behaviour to accommodate different ambient temperature conditions. From there, they earned their MSc with Dr. David Sherry and Dr. Mark Daley, which delved into how computational models can bring insight into avian incubation. For their dissertation, they are creating a theoretical model to understand how individual differences affect group behaviour. They will then compare the theoretical model predictions to empirical tests with a variety of species (fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster; zebra fish, Danio rerio; guppies, Poecilia reticulata, and cowbirds, Molothrus ater).

Morgan Skinner
  Graduate Student (PhD)

Morgan is a third year PhD student in Behavioural Neuroscience. After completing a double major in history and psychology from Wilfrid Laurier, Morgan earned his B.Ed from the University of Western Ontario. Following his accreditation with the Ontario College of Teachers, he spent the next nine years teaching in Canada and overseas. Morgan returned to Laurier to complete an H.B.Sc. Psych, and to pursue his dream of researching snakes. His research with the Collective Cognition Lab will seek to explore social behaviours in Eastern Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis).

Eleanora Baty
  Undergraduate Student (Volunteer)

Eleanora is a third-year psychology student at Wilfrid Laurier University aiming to pursue a masters in psychotherapy while minoring in German. She has a passion for learning and engaging in new academic experiences. Being interested in all forms of psychology and a lover of animals, Eleanora has decided to volunteer to experience research and lab work first-hand.

Alyssa Frey
  Undergraduate Student (Volunteer)

Alyssa is a first year undergraduate student in the psychology and neuroscience program. She is excited to learn more about research methods concerning behavioural cognition and work with all the animals.

Vijay Moonilal
  Undergraduate Student (Volunteer)

Vijay is a third year Psychology and Neuroscience student with a minor in Computer Science at Wilfrid Laurier University. They are most interested in behavioural and cognitive neuroscience. Vijay is very excited to learn more about collective behaviour, how animal models are used, and how behavioural research is conducted at the Collective Cognition Lab.

Claire Servos
  Undergraduate Student (Volunteer)

Claire is a third-year Psychology and Neuroscience student with a minor in Biology. She is excited to work at the Collective Cognition Lab to get direct experience with the scientific process and to potentially discover a topic for her fourth-year thesis project.

Non-humans (current).

  (Danio rerio)

Our lab works mostly with zebrafish, a small schooling fish from northern India and Nepal. Zebrafish are a common pet store fish. They are extensively used by geneticists, developmental biologists, and neuroscientists because they are small, easy to work with, have vertebrae, and spend much of their time transparent. They are a tightly schooling species which makes them ideal for studying collective behavior. We have done studies on their collective movement, how they make social choices, their "personalities" (yes, fish have personalities), and how they learn. More on the Research page.

  (Poecilia reticulata)

The lab has also used guppies, another common research subject, to study mate choice copying and personality (in collaboration with Dr. David White's lab). Female guppies make choices about who to mate with that are based, in part, on the colorfulness and pattern of each potential mate's tail. Some females copy the choices made by other females. More on this on the Research page. We are currently studying how personality affects collective behaviors and innovation.

Western hognose snake
  (Heterodon nasicus)

We recently acquired some western hognose snakes, possibly the cutest of the snakes. We are studying how adding enrichments to their housing can affect their venom production and cognition.

Corn snake
  (Pantherophic guttatus)

We recently started a corn snake lab, with snakes that we incubated and hatched ourselves. These snakes will help us explore social behavior.

Non-humans (former).

  (Columba livia)

Pigeons are the workhorses of comparative psychology research. Our lab previously housed both homing and Silver King pigeons and had operant boxes to explore how social information is learned and combined with personal information. We are currently working on developing a virtual 3D operant box for the pigeons (more on that coming soon). This is all due to pigeons' unique vision. Learn more here.

  (Coturnix japonica)

The lab had several coveys of female Japanese quail. In collaboration with Dr. Diano Marrone, PhD student Chelsey Damphousse explored how spatial learning and object recognition works in the quail brain.

  (Rattus norvegicus)

In collaboration with Dr. Diano Marrone, we previously worked on social transmission of food preferences and exploration of novel environments in groups of rats. We also ran a study on implicit memory in rats, together with Dr. Paul Mallet.

Eastern Gartersnake
  (Thamnophis sirtalis)

There is shockingly little research on snake cognition and they do some very interesting things, cognitively. For three years, we had a lab full of Eastern garter snakes to study those things. Snakes are often considered asocial, which we think is wrong. For example, check out this image of a garter snake mating ball in Manitoba. That looks social to us. Our snake research was recently featured in Science.

Ball python
  (Python regius)

In collaboration with Drs. Bruce McKay and Paul Mallet, we studied how ball pythons learn about different odors, express preferences for odors, and encode those odors in their olfactory bulbs. The behavioral neuroscience of snakes is only a little better studied than their cognition.

Former (human) lab members.

Graduate Students

  • Chelsey Damphousse (2015-2022; MSc & PhD). Chelsey's Master's thesis was on social transmission of food preferences in rats. Her PhD was on the neuroscience of spatial learning, hippocampal structure, and object recognition in Japanese quail and pigeons. She was co-supervised for both degrees by Diano Marrone. Chelsey is now a post-doc in Minneapolis.
  • Hailey Katzman (2017-2019; MSc): Hailey's Master's thesis involved designing and implementing a technique for performing brain lesions in zebrafish, and exploring how lesions of their dorsal-lateral telencephalon affected their schooling behavior.
  • Jovan Poposki (2019-2021; MSc): Jovan's Master's thesis was on how people move around, use, and interact in their workspaces. Jovan created an agent-based model of this process which accurately predicted a lot of known behaviors.

Undergraduate Students

Senior Thesis:
  • Ramy Ayoub (2015-17): Ramy was one of the founding members of the lab and helped with the pigeon experiments at first. He then started his own experiment on flexible social information use in zebrafish, which was published (Ayoub et al., 2019).
  • Stefaniya Brown (2020-2021): Stef's thesis examined how personality in garter snakes changes over the course of their development. This work was published (Skinner et al., 2022)
  • Michelle Chow (2021-23): Michelle started out as a volunteer, helping to run experiments on fish and snakes and coding snake experiments. She then did her senior thesis on the effects of various drugs on zebrafish schooling behavior.
  • Troy Freiburger (2019-21): Troy ran a massive project on self recognition in both garter snakes and pythons, which is ongoing, and which he is still involved with despite now being a grad student at UW. He also assisted with all our other snake experiments.
  • Erika Gunning (2015-16): Erika's thesis examined how social networks and dominance hierarchies correlate in groups of female Japanese quail.
  • Keren Ighalo (2020-2024): Keren started out as a volunteer in the lab. She then transitioned into a senior thesis, in which she created a model of how attention can affect social foraging.
  • Yukta Jotwani (2019-21): Yukta started in the lab as a volunteer, helping run experiments on quail and fish. She then did her senior thesis on cultural transmission in rats.
  • Kevin Kadak (2017-19). Kevin started out as a volunteer in the lab and then did his thesis on sequential collective choice in groups of zebrafish. His thesis was published (Kadak & Miller, 2020).
  • Eden Kleinhandler (2016-18): Eden started out as a volunteer in the lab helping out with lots of different experiments and video coding. She then did her thesis (co-supervised by Dr. Mike Wilkie in Biology) on brumation in goldfish and what it does to their memory.
  • Ayden Malekjahani (2016-17): Ayden's thesis explored how and whether individual differences ('personality') in quail contribute to their dominance hierarchies.
  • Vanessa Ralph (2021-2023): Vanessa started as a volunteer in the lab. Her thesis work was on whether social learning can actually change personalities in zebrafish.
  • Bailey Rand (2021-2022): Bailey's thesis explored whether guppies can use the surface of the water (from underneath) as a mirror to detect things they couldn't otherwise see (like hidden predators). The guppies took months to train, but Bailey persevered!
  • Rhyan Rodrigues (2018-19): Rhyan's thesis explored how drugs affect collective decisions to avoid a group in zebrafish.
  • Britney Sekulovski (2019-22): Britney volunteered in the lab for two years, working on basically everything (coding snake videos, running fish experiments, caring for the animals...), before doing her thesis on collective decision-making in zebrafish, for which she made resin fish. She also ran her own experiment on blind cave-fish at the same time, and was an NSERC Summer RA, twice.
  • Madison Smith (2015-16): Madison's thesis focused on consistent individual differences in zebrafish and how the composition of zebrafish groups affects their collective behavior.
  • Liat Soref (2023-2024): Liat ran an experiment on social effects on zebrafish feeding; in other words, do you eat more slowly (and spit your food out less) when you are being observed by others?
  • Emily Staffiere (2016-18): Emily started out as a volunteer in the lab working with pigeons, quail, and fish, and then did her immense thesis on how testosterone levels can explain dominance hierarchies in quail.
  • Gitika Sharma (2017-18): Gitika's thesis was on how personality in zebrafish correlates with their ability to learn spatial things. She also helped out with other fish experiments.
  • Brooke Vella (2021-2022): Brooke's thesis was on what kinds of things garter snakes can learn. Since we know very little about this, Brooke tried several different things (observational conditioning; visual cues), most of which the snakes did not do well with.

Directed Studies:
  • Eric Armstrong (2016-17): Eric's experiment expanded on earlier work on social information use in zebrafish. He also helped run other zebrafish and quail experiments. His thesis work was published (Ayoub et al., 2019).
  • Caroline Baker (2017-19): Caroline was a volunteer in the lab, then the lab manager, and then ran her own experiment on the effects of various drugs on 'personality' in fish. Then she graduated.
  • Dania Daanish (2021-2022): Dania worked on staining and imaging our massive set of ball python brain slices. She spent many hours counting cells, which is about as much fun as it sounds.
  • Daniel Moussa (2022-2023): Daniel first volunteered in the lab and then ran a massive project on the kinds of groups that zebrafish and guppies form when given a choice of partners.
  • Kaitlin Petter (2015-16): Kaitlin was one of the founding volunteers in the lab and help set up and run experiments with both pigeons and fish. Her directed studies project explored the neglected field of courtship and mating behaviors in zebrafish.
  • Sarah Wahba (2015-16): Sarah first volunteered in the lab, helping with a wide range of experiments, and then her directed studies helped develop our 3D operant box.
  • Stefani Trovato (2016-17): Stefani's project was on same-different learning in pigeons and complex representations.

  • Allyson Andrade (2016-17)
  • Megan Boardman (summer 2021)
  • Kyle Brubacher (2015-16)
  • Debbie Hernandez Carmona (2016-17)
  • Jonah Cooper (2017-18)
  • Kree-Lynn Croff (2023-2024)
  • Denisa Dica (2017-18): Denisa worked in Laurier's Science MakerLab and designed some of our automated apparati
  • Bethany Elwood (2022-2023)
  • Nathan Figueredo (2019-20)
  • Arshya Garg (2019-20)
  • Chanpreet Grewal (2018-19)
  • Lauren Hytman (2018)
  • Keren Ighalo (2020-2022)
  • Mina Ishak (2016-17)
  • Tharani Jeyakumar (2017-18)
  • Leah Kearney (2016-17)
  • Jamal Lewis (2019-20)
  • Alexandra Mahon (2018-19)
  • Kierin McDonald (2022-2024)
  • Sarah Moawad (2018-19): Sarah also designed and drew our lab logo
  • Caitlyn Pelkey (2021-2002)
  • Adam Rak (2022-2024)
  • Sandy Salama (2019-20)
  • Ashley Siegel (2016-17)
  • Jessica Star (2019)

Mackenzie Schultz (2015-18; Lab Manager): Mac gets her own category because she did everything in the lab. She was the lab manager for three years until she graduated and went to grad school. She ran her own experiments (on social choice in quail), supervised everyone else, and kept the lab running, clean, and sane.
Click here to go to the lab picture gallery.