Dr Lisa Leaver
Senior Lecturer


Research interests

My work is focussed on exploring behavioural and cognitive adaptations specific to particular aspects of a species’ ecology. I conduct research on the abilities that have been shaped by the selective pressures faced by animals that cache food for use at a later time, mainly squirrels and kangaroo rats. I am interested in questions about the behavioural ecology and cognitive abilities of caching animals and carry out research on the factors affecting their foraging and food caching decisions, risk taking, social learning, categorisation, problem solving, and memory in the wild and in the laboratory.

I am using various techniques to explore the nature of squirrel cognition - for example, I have examined their performance interacting a variety of puzzle boxes in an attempt to explain how they understand and learn about causal relationships.

I am investigating social influences on foraging and food caching decisions made by eastern grey squirrels in the laboratory and in the field. I conduct cognitive and spatial memory experiments in the laboratory, and I look at natural social, foraging and caching behaviour of marked individuals in the field.

I am also investigating individual differences in cost/benefit trade-offs made by animals during foraging and food storing in relation to things such as cues of predation risk, presence of competitors and food value.



Research grants

  • 2007 Great Western Research
    PhD studentship jointly funded by Astra Zenica entitled "Using behaviour to determine welfare and enrichment criteria for aquatic environmental protection research".
  • 2005 EU STREP/NEST
    From Associations to rules in the development of concepts
  • 2001 British Ecological Society (UK)
    Small Project Grant entitled "The ecological impact of common rats (Rattus norvegicus) on the Isles of Scilly: assessing the value of pest control"

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