Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Jessica van der Wal

  Dr Jessica E.M. van der Wal
  PhD (St Andrews)

  John Day Building Room 2.16


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 (2018), I studied the foraging ecology of tool use in New Caledonian crows. I thoroughly enjoy fieldwork in remote locations into little-understood systems and species. I take great pleasure in working alongside resident communities and in doing so incorporating their cultural values and the associated logistics of the local environment into the research plan. My keen interest in the natural world originates from my childhood in rural Tanzania.

I joined the FitzPatrick in March 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow, where I am hosted by Prof. Claire Spottiswoode. I research the ecology and evolution of the remarkable mutualism between human honey-hunters and Greater Honeyguides ( My main focus is on understanding the human cultural variation that sustains human-bird cooperation, such as the calls ‘honey-hunters’ use to communicate with honeyguides. 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.

Peer-reviewed publications:

van der Wal, J.E.M., Gedi, I. and Spottiswoode, C.N. 2022 Awer honey-hunting culture with greater honeyguides in coastal Kenya. Frontiers in Conservation Science 2: 727479.

van der Wal, J.E.M., Thorogood, R. and Horrocks, N.P.C. 2021 Collaboration enhances career progression in academic science, especially for female researchers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 288: 20210219.

St Clair, J., Klump, B.C., van der Wal, J.E.M., Sugasawa, S. and 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. and 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. and 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. and Bakker, E.S. 2013 Invasive crayfish threaten the development of submerged macrophytes in lake restoration. PLoS One 8: e78579.