This episode explores current research priorities by Prof. Rutz with new Caledonian Crows, their advanced use of making and using tools, and reflections on his recent sabbatical visit at Radcliffe College.
We explored how Christian became interested in birds; how he developed a specific interest in New Caledonian Crows; other tropical birds; Crows using tools for foraging; the new research station; reflections on time as a Grass Fellow at Radcliffe College; his visit to the Crow Roost in Lawrence, MA; using telemetry devices; his leadership for the International Bio-Logging Society; his new research paper, and more!
PROF. CHRISTIAN RUTZ is a professor of biology at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland, where he leads a research group studying animal tool behavior. He combines observational, experimental, and theoretical approaches to address a major scientific puzzle: Why do so few animal species use tools, and how have humans become so technology savvy?
Rutz probes the evolutionary origins of tool behavior with an innovative research strategy. Rather than studying our primate cousins, he investigates tropical crows that have the curious habit of using foraging tools. His principal study species, the renowned New Caledonian crow, fashions complex tool designs from a variety of plant materials and may even refine its technology over time. Rutz recently discovered that the critically endangered Hawaiian crow is also a skilled tool user, opening up exciting opportunities for comparative research. During a recent sabbatical leave, as a Grass Fellow at Radcliffe College, Rutz was pursuing a range of interrelated objectives on the tool behavior of New Caledonian and Hawaiian crows, exploring the biological processes that allow rudimentary technologies to arise, advance, and diversify.
Rutz obtained his doctorate as a Rhodes Scholar from the University of Oxford, was subsequently awarded a prestigious David Phillips Fellowship, and held visiting appointments at the Universities of Oxford, Tokyo, and New South Wales. His research is regularly published in leading interdisciplinary journals, including Nature and Science, has attracted a string of academic prizes, and has been showcased at major public science exhibitions. Rutz has pioneered cutting-edge wildlife tracking technologies and serves as the founding president of the International Bio-Logging Society.
CRAIG GIBSON is a bird conservation photographer. His current focus is on expanding awareness about the Winter Crow Roost located in Lawrence, MA. Craig has well over 300 documented observation nights tracking and documenting this crow roost. He leads many group tours and has made numerous presentations and talks. Craig designed and launched a blog and this podcast about the Winter Crow Roost and continues to oversee all editorial content. He has also been the lead on initiating and coordinating a range of activities and events with local arts, education, and community groups as well as working with a growing number of conservation and environmental organizations. He wrote and published a comprehensive 14-page report to recap the 2018-2019 winter season, and a comprehensive guide about roost photography at night. His efforts have raised much greater awareness about the Winter Crow Roost in Lawrence, MA, and he has been a catalyst for a range of new community science initiatives.