I am a behavioural ecologist intrigued by the profound variation in how different species specialise on resources. For my PhD at the University of St Andrews, I studied the foraging ecology of tool use in New Caledonian crows, under the supervision of Christian Rutz. Following my PhD, I held a researcher position at Sovon Dutch Centre of Field Ornithology, followed by a short postdoc on individual strategies in birds and humans, in collaboration with Dr Rose Thorogood at the University of Helsinki. I thoroughly enjoy fieldwork in remote locations, especially when taking pioneering steps towards making new discoveries about little-understood species. I also take great pleasure in working alongside the resident communities and in doing so incorporating their social values and the associated logistics of the local environment into the research plan. I joined the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology in March 2019, on a UCT Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.
I research the ecology and evolution of the remarkable mutualism between human honey-hunters and greater honeyguides. Among the remaining parts of Africa where this mutualism still exists, there is substantial geographical variation in the behaviour and calls honey-hunters use to attract honeyguides to lead them to bee nests. I am interested in mapping the mosaic of mutualism between honeyguides and humans, by investigating the variation in human honey-hunting cultures, and understanding how the birds must adjust and the underlying learning process involved. I employ an interdisciplinary approach to address my research questions, integrating ideas and methodologies from a variety of academic disciplines such as biology, anthropology, linguistics, as well as citizen science.
St Clair, J., Klump, B.C., van der Wal, J.E.M., Sugasawa, S. & Rutz, C. 2016 Strong between-site variation in New Caledonian crows’ use of hook-tool-making materials. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 118: 226-232.
Rutz, C., Sugasawa, S., van der Wal, J.E.M., Klump, B.C. & St Clair, J. 2016 Tool bending in New Caledonian crows. Royal Society Open Science 3: 160439.
Klump, B.C., van der Wal, J.E.M, St Clair, J. & Rutz, C. 2015 Context-dependent ‘safekeeping’ of foraging tools in New Caledonian crows. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 282: 20150278.
van der Wal, J.E.M., Dorenbosch, M., Immers, A.K., Vidal Forteza, C., Geurts, J.J., Peeters, E.T., Koese, B. & Bakker, E.S. 2013 Invasive crayfish threaten the development of submerged macrophytes in lake restoration. PLoS One 8: e78579.