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Dr Gabrielle Davidson


Gabrielle obtained a BSc Zoology at University College London, after which she worked as a Research Assistant looking at gene mutations associated with hereditary neuropathies in human families. She completed her PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge in 2014 where she investigated the functions of gaze sensitivity (i.e. where others are looking) in corvids (birds of the crow family). As a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, she studied the development of causal reasoning in juvenile Eurasian jays. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at UCC studying individual variation in cognitive abilities in great tits (Parus major).

Research Interests

Gabrielle is a comparative psychologist and a behavioural ecologist with a keen interest in the development, function and evolution of cognition. Her doctoral work investigated how rooks, jackdaws and carrion crows respond to where others are looking (i.e. gaze sensitivity), and how this influences decision-making when foraging, finding nesting locations, guarding chicks and escaping predators. Her current research with Professor John Quinn focuses on developing rigorous cognitive tasks to investigate the evolution of intelligence in wild populations, using wild great tits as a model system. These methods will help us answer key questions regarding heritability of and selection on cognitive traits.


  1. Davidson, GL, Cooke, A, Johnson, C, Quinn, J. (2018). The microbiome as a driver of individual variation in cognition and functional behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, AcceptedView Preprint here.
  2. Davidson, GL,  Reichert, MS, Crane, JMS, O’Shea, W, Quinn, JL. (2018) Repeatable aversion across threat types is linked with life history traits but is dependent on how aversion is measured. Royal Society Open Science. 5(2):172218
  3. Helden, A.J., Morley, G.J., Davidson, G.L., Turner, E.C. (2018) What can we do for urban insect biodiversity? Applying lessons from ecological research. Zoosymposia. 12: 51-63
  4. Davidson, GL (2017) Directed versus averted gaze. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. 1-3
  5. Davidson, GL, Clayton, NS, Thornton, A. (2017). Evolution of iris colour in relation to cavity nesting and parental care in passerine birds. Biology Letters. 13:1
  6. Davidson, GL, Miller, R, Loissel, E, Cheke, L, Clayton, NS. (2017) The development of support intuitions and object causality in juvenile Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius). Scientific Reports 7: 40062.
  7. Davidson, GL & Clayton, NS. (2015). New perspectives in gaze sensitivity research. Learning and Behavior. DOI 10.3758/s13420-015-0204-z.
  8. Davidson, G, Clayton, NS, Thornton, A. (2015) Wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula) recognise individual humans and may respond to gaze direction with defensive behaviour. Animal Behaviour108:17-24.
  9. Davidson, GL, Clayton, NS, Thornton, A. (2014) Salient eyes deter conspecific nest intruders in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula). Biology Letters10:1-4.
  10. Davidson, GL, Butler, S, Fernández-Juricic, E, Thornton, A, Clayton, NS. (2013) Gaze sensitivity: function and mechanisms from sensory and cognitive perspectives. Animal Behaviour87:3-15.
  11. Davidson, GL, Murphy, SM, Polke, JM, Davis, MB, Houlden, H, Reilly, MM, collaborators of the MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases (2012) Frequency of mutations in the genes associated with hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy in a UK cohort. Journal of Neurology259(8):1673-85.

Professional Activity

Outreach Activities

Gabrielle loves communicating science and engaging with the public about animal behaviour and cognition. She presents several talks a year to natural history and bird clubs including the Oxford Ornithology Society, Cambridge Bird Club, Marylebone Bird Watching Society, London Natural History Society, and more. Her research has been featured on various media outlets for radio, TV and print, and she has written for The Conversation. She has also worked closely with the BBC to assist with the filming of documentaries featuring corvid behaviour and cognition.



Gabrielle Davidson

Contact Details:


Post Doctoral Researcher



UCC Ornithology Research Group

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UCC North Mall Campus, North Mall, Cork City,