This year's Winter Meeting of the Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) will be held in Edinburgh on 13th and 14th December 2023, with the theme: Animal Cognition: Pure to Applied.

What an animal knows impacts all aspects of its behaviour. This conference will focus on both the fundamental mechanisms underlying cognition and its application to real-world problems such as conservation, ecosystem services, and welfare.

Plenary Speakers

Gilly Forrester
Outreach lecture: Prof Gillian Forrester, University of Sussex, UK

Gilly is a Professor of Evolutionary & Developmental Psychology at the University of Sussex. She earned a BSc in Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego and a PhD in Experimental Neuroscience from the University of Oxford. By studying the brains and behaviours of human and non-human primates, Gilly is on a quest to better understand how we became the upright-walking, talking, tool-using great apes that we are today. Gilly is dedicated to science engagement and directs the Me, Human project (, Twitter: @Me__Human). She runs public science exhibits, features at festivals and makes regular contributions to television, radio, newsprint and podcasts. You can find out more about Gilly here: or follow her on Twitter: @ForresterGilly and Instagram @GillyForrester.

Alice Auersperg
Dr Alice Auersperg, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria

Alice is a Cognitive Biologist interested in the evolution of technical behavior and innovation. Her current research focus is the emergence of tool use behavior. Her approach is interdisciplinary and comparative including birds, primates, robots, and children. Nevertheless, she is best known for her work on Goffin's cockatoos that her team has studied intensively in lab and field settings over the past decade. She works as an Associate Professor at the Messerli Research Institute at the Vetmeduni Vienna. She is a former FWF Schrödinger and current START Prize fellow and a member of the Young Academy of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Elli Leadbeater
Prof Elli Leadbeater, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Elli's research centres around the ecology and evolution of social insects, and specifically the evolution of bee cognition and the threats faced by insects in a rapidly changing world. She is a Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Royal Holloway University of London, where she's been based for 10 years. Prior to that, she studied social wasp societies (including the endearing but unpleasantly-behaved Mexican honey wasp) at the Institute of Zoology in London and the University of Sussex. Sometime, a bit too far back in the early 2000s, she completed her PhD at Queen Mary University of London.

Giorgio Vallortigara
Tinbergen lecture: Prof Giorgio Vallortigara, University of Trento, Italy

Giorgio is Professor of Neuroscience at the Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences of the University of Trento, Italy. His main research interest is the study of cognition from a comparative and evolutionary perspective, with particular reference to the origins and mechanisms of number, space and object cognition. He also studied brain and behavioural asymmetries, developing a seminal theory of the evolution of directional asymmetries. He has been the recipient of several honors and prizes, including, among others, the Geoffrey de St. Hilaire Prize for Ethology, and a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Ruhr in Germany.

Image by PollyDot from Pixabay


Following the success of last year's conference, this year we will be meeting again in the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, a superb venue right in the heart of this vibrant, historic city. It is only 5 minutes walk from Edinburgh Waverley train station, and there are plenty of places to eat, drink, and visit right on the doorstep.


Download a copy of the conference programme and the abstract booklet here.

If you have been selected for a poster presentation, please be aware that the preferred poster size is A0 (841 × 1189 mm) portrait. We won't be able to accommodate posters larger than this unfortunately.

Image by Rajesh Balouria from Pixabay

Organising Committee

Elisa Frasnelli
Dr Elisa Frasnelli, CIMeC - Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Italy

Elisa studies animal behaviour and cognition, particularly in invertebrates, from a mechanistic and evolutionary perspective. A major focus of her research is to examine the evolutionary basis of cognition - using bees as a model - with a specific interest in brain and behavioural asymmetries and their function.

Anna Wilkinson
Prof Anna Wilkinson, University of Lincoln, UK

Anna is interested in how animals perceive the world, how they learn about their environment and how they use and retain this information. She works with a variety of species from tortoises to pigeons, however, much of her recent work has built on her background in pure animal cognition to inform research in applied contexts. A particular focus of this work has been using her knowledge of how animals process information to improve performance of working dogs.

Tim Simon
Tim Simon, PhD student, University of Lincoln, UK

Tim is interested in how animals perceive the world emotionally, what matters to them, and what they need to live a good life. In his PhD project, he investigated asymmetric behaviours in pet dogs, such as paw preference or asymmetric tail wagging movements, as potential markers for dogs' emotional functioning.

Tom Pike
Dr Tom Pike, University of Lincoln, UK

Tom has broad interests within behavioural and sensory ecology, but his research primarily focusses on the evolution of visual and olfactory signals, which he looks at across a range of social contexts, including mate choice, grouping behaviour, camouflage, and mimicry.