Urban areas worldwide are expanding at unprecedented rates, often with devastating consequences to wildlife. Humans generate various forms of urban pollution that impact wildlife, including anthropogenic noise and artificial light at night. The effect such pollutants have on wildlife physiology and behaviour has been extensively studied, but their impact on cognitive performance and sleep remains poorly understood. Using Australian magpies (Cracticus tibicen) as a study species, my research looks to provide insight into these unknowns. My research is split into two categories: cognitive performance and sleep.
Cognitive Performance: Utilizing field and captive based cognitive testing, I am exploring the effect anthropogenic noise has on cognitive performance in magpies. Recent evidence suggests that birds from urban and rural environments differ in cognitive performance. This outcome is plausible because anthropogenic stressors are known to disrupt developmental processes including cognitive development, but to my knowledge no study has yet to investigate the relationship between anthropogenic noise and cognitive performance. Cognitive function directly impacts every aspect of an animal’s fitness and it is therefore imperative that we disentangle the mechanisms driving changes to cognition performance in urban environments, and explore possible solutions to mitigate these impacts.
Sleep: Using a wild caught, captive population I am looking at the impact noise and artificial light at night has on sleep in magpies. As far as we know sleep occurs in all animals, is directly associated with health and is essential for life. While humans have noise cancelling headphones, double panned windows, and black out curtains to block out the world outside, urban wildlife doesn’t; and instead are forced to deal with the chaos that comes with living in a city. My work is explores the effect noise and different wavelengths of light have on sleep in magpies.