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Our Current Team

Summer 2022

Christopher B. Sturdy (he/him) Principal Investigator

Professor for the Psychology Department at the University of Alberta. Canada Research Chair in animal Cognition, Communication, and Neuroethology. In my free time I enjoy walking the dogs, cooking/eating the food, and lifting the weights #mswarrior.

Prateek Sahu (he/him)

Currently a PhD student after finishing my Masters’ with the SNL. My research interests include animal behaviour & cognition, and mechanism of behaviour. I have worked with ants, fishes and fruit flies during my undergrad and hold a Masters’ in biological sciences. I enjoy photography, reading books, and cooking.

Moriah Deimeke (she/they)

I joined the SNL as a MSc student in the fall of ’21. I completed my undergraduate degree at New College of Florida, the state’s honors college, studying Biological Psychology. After, I continued pursuing sensory, cognitive, and communication research there as psychology lab technician and lab manager. At the University of Alberta, my primary research interests include interspecies perception, contact calling, intrinsic motivation, and the underlying neural mechanisms of communication. Over the years, I have had the privilege to work with many marine mammals, reptiles, horses (as well as other livestock/domestic animals), – and, now, birds!

Outside of research, my passions include writing, community building/support, conservation/animal welfare, hiding in the histology lab, being in natural spaces, and drinking way too much coffee. ☕

Katharine Stenstrom (she/they)

I am a MSc. student starting my second year in the fall of ‘22. I’m a huge Chickadee fan! I completed my undergrad degree at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, studying Integrative Biology. I was a field tech and independent undergrad researcher. I’m a birder in my free time.

Sarah Smeltz (she/her)

I joined the Songbird Neuroethology Lab in 2020 while completing my undergraduate degree. Recently, I completed my undergraduate thesis on Black-capped chickadee chick-a-dee call convergence within laboratory colony rooms. I’m very happily returning to the SNL this September 2022 as lab manager, and am eager to continue working with such an amazing team. In my spare time I’m an avid reader, and enjoy, hiking, canoeing, and photography.

Erin Scully (she/her)

I obtained both my MSc and PhD from the SNL. I like to consider myself a semi-professional catsitter and amateur weight lifter. I have a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Most of my research at the SNL surrounded cognitive and behavioural neuroscience in songbirds; specifically, black-capped chickadees and zebra finches.


Inaara Ebrahim (she/her)

I am a fourth-year honors psychology student, completing my thesis at the SNL. I also conduct research under Dr. Zahinoor Ismail, looking at neurodegenerative diseases. Outside of school and research, I volunteer with South Asian Youth Mental Health!

Kailyn Nottebrock (she/her)

I’m a 4th year student completing a Bachelor of Science with specialization in psychology. I’m interested in all things developmental and behavioural neuroscience and love animals, so the SNL lab called my name! Currently, I’m a PSYCH 496 student with the SNL.

Harshita Gonella (she/her)

I’m a 3rd year BSc student in psychology and biology. Currently, I’m working on completing my individual research thesis and research certificate in SNL. I’m interested in comparative cognition, developmental psychology, and neuropsychology and I love studying model organisms to understand behaviour, so SNL was a perfect fit!

Mariane Kalliny (she/her)

I am a 4th-year Specialization Psychology student! I joined the Songbird Neuroethology Lab in the Winter of 2023 as a 396 student and will continue in Fall of 2023. I am interested in studying rhythm perception, and the effects that aspects of music can have on cognition, so SNL was an ideal place for me to begin exploring!

Alexandra Garcia (she/her)

My first year in the honours psychology program begins fall 2023! Joining the SNL has allowed an opportunity to merge two of my passions: animals and psychology. Outside of the SNL, I volunteer on a distress line and hope to becoming a counselling psychologist one day!

Nikhil Kumar (He/Him)

I joined the Songbird Neuroethology Lab as a 2023 NSERC USRA summer student. I am also completing my Bachelor of Science as a second-year Honors Neuroscience undergraduate at the University of Alberta. As part of my summer project, I study conspecific-driven immediate early gene expression. This work primarily includes the extraction, processing and analysis of songbird brains. My interests include neuropathology and its subsequent surgical treatment.
Outside of academia, I also enjoy swimming and going to the gym.

Annika Chell (she/they)

I am a third year student in a BA with a major in Psychology, currently working toward a research certificate. My fascination with animal behaviour began as a kid, leading me to spend over a decade training and competing in dog sports. In 2021 I completed a diploma in conservation biology, and then transitioned into my current program at the U of A. When I started looking for a lab to join, the SNL seemed to be the perfect place for me to be able to bring my passions and knowledge together!

Michelle Gao (she/her)

I am entering my third year as a Health Sciences student at McMaster University. I joined the SNL in the summer of 2022 as an NSERC USRA student and am beyond happy to be back again for summer 2023! In my free time, I like hiking, reading, and duck watching.

Current SNL Collaborators

  • Erin Bayne, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Laurie Bloomfield, Algoma University, Department of Psychology; chickadee communication
  • Colleen Cassady St. Clair, Department of Biological Sciences;  anthropogenic noise and habitat impacts on songbird communication and abundance
  • Robert Cook, Tufts University, Department of Psychology; chord perception in birds
  • David Gammon, Elon University, Department of Biology; Parid vocal communication
  • Lauren Guillette, University of Alberta, Department of Psychology; animal learning and cognition
  • Peter Hurd, University of Alberta, Department of Psychology; coping styles and personalities in birds