Professor John Quinn


  • 2015: Professor in Zoology, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Science, UCC
  • 2012-2015: Lecturer in Ecology, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Science, UCC
  • 2006-2012: Departmental Lecturer in Behavioural Mechanisms, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK
  • 2006-2012: Lecturer in Animal Biology (Part-time), Pembroke College, University of Oxford, UK
  • 2004-2006: Postdoctoral Researcher, Edward Grey Institute, University of Oxford, UK
  • 2001-2004: Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK
  • 1990-1996: Researcher, The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, UK
  • 1989: Senior Reserve Warden, The Irish Wildbird Conservancy

John Quinn is Associate Editor for both the “Journal of Animal Ecology” and “Bird Study”, and was former Associate Editor of “Ibis”.

Research Interests

My interests span a broad range of topics in ecology, evolution and ornithology. Mostly I have worked on birds, across a range of different environments, including marine, coastal, wetland, woodland and agricultural. My current focus is on the following areas:

  • The evolutionary ecology of cognition and personality:  One of my major research interests why individuals vary in the way they behave and what this means for population level processes. My approach is to examine proximate (genetic, physiological, environmental) and ultimate causes of variation among great tits in a wild setting. This work is described further elsewhere and is currently funded by an ERC Consolidator grant (see Evolutionary Ecology of Cognition)
  • Seabird ecology and natural resource management: Perched on the edge of the North East Atlantic, Ireland hosts some of the most important seabird populations in Europe, and is under statutory obligation to ensure their protection. Nevertheless the population ecology and general ecology of most of these populations is either largely unknown or very poorly understood.  My research currently involves understanding the distribution of seabirds at sea using a combination of GIS, mathematical modelling, and biotracking techniques, and by refining population estimates. Ultimately my aim is to understand potential impacts of human activities on seabird populations (see Predicting Seabird Distribution)
  • Biodiversity in agricultural and forestry landscapes:I am interested in the impact of agriculture and forestry on avian behaviour and populations (see current project ADAPT)
  • Predator-prey interactions and group living: I have a long standing interest in predator-prey interactions and the evolution of group living behaviour.


  1. Zandberg, L.,  Quinn, J.L., Naguib, M., van Oers, K. (2017)  Personality-dependent differences in problem-solving performance in a social context reflect foraging strategiesBehavioural Processes, 134:95-102. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2016.09.007
  2. Quinn, J.L., Cole, E.F., Reed, T.E., Morand-Ferron, F. (2016)  Environmental and genetic determinants of innovativeness in a natural population of birds. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. doi: 
  3. Morand-Ferron, J., Cole, E. & Quinn, J.L. (2015) Studying the evolutionary ecology of cognition in the wild: a review of practical and conceptual challengesBiological Reviews. doi: 10.1111/brv.12174
  4. Morand-Ferron, J. & Quinn, J.L. (2015) The evolution of cognition in natural populationsTrends in Cognitive Science. 19:235-237
  5. Quinn, J.L., Patrick, S, Wilkin, T.D, & Sheldon, BC. (2009) Heterogeneous selection on a heritable temperament trait in a variable environmentJournal of Animal Ecology 78:1203-1215.
  6. Cole, E.F., Morand-Ferron, J., Hinks, A., Quinn, J.L. (2012) Cognitive ability influences reproductive life history variation in the wildCurrent Biology 22: 1808-1812.
  7. Cole, E.F. & Quinn, J.L. (2012) Personality and problem-solving performance explain competitive ability in the wildProceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 279:1168–1175 (doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1539).
  8. Quinn, J.L., Cole, E.F., Patrick, S. and Sheldon, B.C. (2011) Scale and state dependence of the relationship between personality and dispersal in a great tit populationJournal of Animal Ecology 80:918-928.
  9. Cole, E. & Quinn, J.L. (2014) Shy birds play it safe: personality in captivity predicts risk responsiveness during reproduction in the wild. Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0178.
  10. Quinn, J.L., Bates, J., Cole, E.F., Payne, R. & Cresswell, W. (2012) Personality predicts individual responsiveness to the risks of starvation and predationProceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 279, 1919–1926.
  11. Dingemanse, N.J., Bouwman, K., Van Overveld, T., Patrick, S.C., Matthysen, E., van de Pol, M., Quinn, J.L. (2012) Variation in personality and behavioural plasticity across four populations of the great tit Parus major. Journal of Animal Ecology 81:116-126.
  12. Morand-Ferron, J. & Quinn, J.L. (2011) Larger groups of passerines are more efficient problem solvers in the wildProceedings of the National Academy of Science 108:15898-15903.
  13. Cresswell, W. & Quinn, J.L. (2011) Predicting the optimal prey group size from predator hunting behaviourJournal of Animal Ecology 80: 310-319.

Professional Activity



John Quinn

Contact Details:


Professor in Zoology

Work Area:




UCC Ornithology Research Group

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