Dr Jackie Chappell DPhil

Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour

School of Biosciences

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Contact details

School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

About

Dr Chappell is an expert in the field of animal cognition, and is involved in interdisciplinary research and teaching between the fields of biology, psychology and computer science.

Qualifications

  • BSc 1991, University of Bristol, Biology
  • DPhil 1996, University of Oxford, Navigation in homing pigeons

Biography

After completing a DPhil on the mechanisms of homing pigeon navigation at the University of Oxford in 1996, I started my post-doctoral career by investigating interval timing in birds and then tool use and manufacture by New Caledonian crows, also at the University of Oxford. Following a temporary lectureship in Behavioural Ecology at Oxford between 2001 and 2003, I started my current post as Lecturer in Animal Behaviour at the University of Birmingham in 2004.

Teaching

I teach on second and third year courses dealing with learning and cognition (BIO266), humans as a social species (BIO263), human evolution (BIO380) and living in groups (BIO397). I lead a skills-based second year module, BIO240. I also run a final year, field-based project module at Trentham Monkey Forest in collaboration with Dr. Susannah Thorpe every other year. I am keen to help students build independent learning skills, and lead a final year module, Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour (BIO392), which is designed around the principles of Inquiry-based learning.

Postgraduate supervision

For a list of possible PhD projects offered by Dr Chappell www.findaphd.com/search/customlink.asp?inst=birm-Biol&supersurname=Chappell

Research

Research Theme within School of Biosciences: Organisms and Environment

Lab website address: jackiechappell.com/

Physical cognition and tool use: how do animals and humans understand and manipulate their physical environment?

I completed my DPhil at the University of Oxford, where I subsequently spent several years studying various aspects of animal cognition. My work at Oxford focused on the cognition of tool manufacturing behaviour in New Caledonian crows. These birds manufacture and use at least three distinct types of tool: hook tools made out of twigs, stepped and tapered tools made from Pandanus leaves, and straight sticks. This behaviour is unique among free-living non-humans because of the use of hooks, the degree of standardisation of the tools, and the use of different tool types. One interesting question is whether tool manufacture is rare because of the scarcity of selection pressure on species to use tools, or whether tool use and manufacture requires advanced cognitive capabilities that most species do not possess.

I completed my DPhil at the University of Oxford, where I subsequently spent several years studying various aspects of animal cognition. My work at Oxford focused on the cognition of tool manufacturing behaviour in New Caledonian crows. These birds manufacture and use at least three distinct types of tool: hook tools made out of twigs, stepped and tapered tools made from Pandanus leaves, and straight sticks. This behaviour is unique among free-living non-humans because of the use of hooks, the degree of standardisation of the tools, and the use of different tool types. One interesting question is whether tool manufacture is rare because of the scarcity of selection pressure on species to use tools, or whether tool use and manufacture requires advanced cognitive capabilities that most species do not possess.

Since moving to the University of Birmingham in 2004, my interests have broadened to encompass investigating the cognitive architecture involved in the perception of affordances (the ways in which objects can be manipulated and used) causality and planning, and the way in which this develops ontogenetically and phylogenetically. For example, how do animals integrate information about affordances and relationships discovered during exploration with their pre-existing knowledge? Do animals plan a complex sequence of actions when solving multi-step physical problems? My current research as head of the Cognitive Adaptations Research Group focuses on various species of parrots and non-human primates, but I am also interested in human cognition and the design of behaviourally flexible, interactive robots, able to explore and learn about their environment.

Though I am a member of the School of Biosciences, I have also been collaborating closely with several people in the School of Computer Science, particularly Professor Aaron Sloman (with whom I have written several papers), Dr Jeremy Wyatt, Dr Nick Hawes and other members of the IRLAB team. I also collaborate with Dr Susannah Thorpe on the cognition of orangutan locomotion, and work with Dr Sarah Beck and Dr Ian Apperly in the School of Psychology on tool innovation in human children.

Listen to my podcast 'Clever crows rely on a unique bird's eye view (MP3 - 5.35MB)' or read the podcast transcript.

Listen to my podcast 'Intelligence' (MP3 - 17.3MB).

Other activities

When not working, I enjoy cycling, walking, crochet and tinkering with computers.

Publications

Chappell, J., Cutting, N., Apperly, I. A. and Beck, S. R. (2013). The development of tool manufacture in humans: what helps young children make innovative tools? Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 368, 20120409. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0409

Arriola-Rios, V. E., Demery, Z. P., Wyatt, J., Sloman, A. and Chappell, J. (2013). Salient Features and Snapshots in Time: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Object Representation. In 7 (eds. G. Dodig-Crnkovic and R. Giovagnoli), pp. 171-184. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. 

Tecwyn, E. C., Thorpe, S. K. and Chappell, J. (2013). A novel test of planning ability: Great apes can plan step-by-step but not in advance of action. Behav Processes 100, 174-184. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2013.09.016

Tecwyn, E. C., Thorpe, S. K. S. and Chappell, J. (2012). What cognitive strategies do orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) use to solve a trial-unique puzzle-tube task incorporating multiple obstacles? Animal Cognition 15, 121-133. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10071-011-0438-x

Beck, S. R., Chappell, J., Apperly, I. A. and Cutting, N. (2012). Tool innovation may be a critical limiting step for the establishment of a rich tool-using culture: a perspective from child development. Behav Brain Sci 35, 220-221. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X11001877

Chappell, J., Demery, Z. P., Arriola-Rios, V. and Sloman, A. (2012). How to build an information gathering and processing system: Lessons from naturally and artificially intelligent systems. Behavioural Processes 89, 179-186. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2011.10.001

Troscianko, J., von Bayern, A. M., Chappell, J., Rutz, C. and Martin, G. R. (2012). Extreme binocular vision and a straight bill facilitate tool use in New Caledonian crows. Nat Commun 3, 1110. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms2111

Chappell, J. and Hawes, N. (2012). Biological and artificial cognition: what can we learn about mechanisms by modelling physical cognition problems using artificial intelligence planning techniques? Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 367, 2723-2732. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0221

Demery, Z.P., Chappell, J., & Martin, G.R. (2011). Vision, touch and object manipulation in Senegal parrots Poicephalus senegalus. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 278, 3687-3693. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2011.0374

Beck, S.R., Apperly, I.A., Chappell, J., Guthrie, C., & Cutting, N. (2011). Making tools isn't child's play. Cognition 119(2): 149-312. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2011.01.003.

Chappell, J. (2010). Cognition and intelligence: peering in to the ‘black box’. In: The New Optimists: Scientists View Tomorrow's World & What it Means to Us (ed. K. Richards), Linus Publishing.

Chappell, J. and Thorpe, SKS. (2010). AI-Inspired Biology: Does AI Have Something to Contribute to Biology? In: Proceedings of the International Symposium on AI Inspired Biology: A Symposium at the AISB 2010 Convention, Leicester, UK

Chappell, J. (2009). Book review: Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence: Theories, Methods, and Technologies. American Journal of Human Biology 21, 713-714.

Sloman, A. and Chappell, J. (2007) Computational cognitive epigenetics. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 375-376.

Chappell, J. and Sloman, A. (2007) Natural and artificial meta-configured altricial information-processing systems. International Journal of Unconventional Computing. 3, 211-239.

Chappell, J. (2006) Avian cognition: Understanding tool use. Current Biology, 7, R244-R245.

Chappell, J. (2006) Living with the trickster: Crows, ravens, and human culture. PLoS Biol. 4, e14.

Kacelnik, A. and Chappell, J. and Weir, A.A.S. and Kenward, B. (2006) Cognitive adaptations for tool-related behaviour in New Caledonian crows.  In: Comparative Cognition: Experimental Explorations of Animal Intelligence. eds. Wasserman, E.A and Zentall, T.R. pp. 515-528. OUP, Oxford.

Sloman, A. and Chappell, J. (2005) Altricial self-organising information-processing systems.  AISB Quarterly. 121, 5-7.

Kacelnik, A., Chappell, J., Weir, A.A.S. and Kenward, B. (2005) Tool use and manufacture in birds.  In: Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior Volume 3. ed. Bekoff, M. pp. 1067-1069. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Chappell, J. and Kacelnik, A. (2004) Selection of tool diameter by New Caledonian crows Corvus moneduloides. Animal Cognition, 7, 121-127.

Kenward, B., Rutz, C., Weir, A.A.S., Chappell, J. and Kacelnik, A. (2004) Morphology and sexual dimorphism of the New Caledonian crow Corvus moneduloides, with notes on its behaviour and ecology.  Ibis. 4, 652-660.

Weir, A.A.S., Kenward, B., Chappell, J. and Kacelnik, A. (2004) Lateralisation of tool use in New Caledonian crows Corvus moneduloides. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B (Suppl.) 271, S344-S346.

Chappell, J. and Kacelnik, A. (2002) Tool selectivity in a non-mammal, the New Caledonian crow (Corvus moneduloides). Animal Cognition, 5, 71-78.

Weir, A.A.S., Chappell, J. and Kacelnik, A. (2002) Shaping of hooks in New Caledonian crows. Science, 297, 981.

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