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Carolyn Walsh

Room Number: SN3089
Telephone: (709) 737-4738
Unit: Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology

Research Interests


Carolyn Walsh



My research focuses on what I consider the most fascinating area of Psychology and Biology: the interface between every living organism and its environment,¹ or, in other words, Behaviour!

Along with many others, I subscribe to Niko Tinbergen’s “Four Questions” about behaviour as the framework for animal behaviour research, and I ask (and, hopefully, answer) questions that range from the proximate to the ultimate causes of behaviour. I see my research as not necessarily being focused on a single species, or taxonomic group (grant-funding purposes excepted, of course!). Rather, I am interested in broader theoretical questions about behaviour, in particular, questions about the most interesting behaviours of all, those involved in reproduction- especially mate choice and parental care.


Starling Eggs in Nestbox

Yucatan Miniature Pigs

My current research interests include factors that affect mate choice and retention in birds (including the Common Murre, a seabird, and the European Starling, a passerine), and the effects of early adverse environments (e.g., “prenatal” maternal stress, differential parental care) on the subsequent neural, endocrine, and cognitive development of individuals. To investigate the latter, I am using both an avian and a mammalian model- the European Starling and the Yucatan Miniature Pig.

In collaboration with Drs. Gerard Martin (Psychology) and Robert Bertolo (Biochemistry), I am studying how a piglet’s early rearing (and, perhaps, diet) condition affects later emotional reactivity (e.g., anxiety-like behaviour), cognitive abilities (attention, memory), and distribution of certain brain receptors for stress hormones in areas like the hippocampus. I believe that the piglet model of “early adversity” (maternally-deprived piglets vs. sow-reared piglets) may be a useful model for some aspects of neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression and schizophrenia.

Birds make an interesting contrast to mammals, when investigating how maternal stress might affect offspring development. This is because mother birds have only a few hours, during egg-formation, when their own physiological states can influence their chick, since the chick develops entirely encased within an egg.

I am always happy to speak to potential graduate students who might share some of my research interests. Be warned, though: my research program involves getting up close and personal with live animals (and, sometimes, their brains). Not everyone finds joy in this!

I am most interested in recruiting students who might like to work with the pigs (raised in the lab) and with the free-living starlings (nestbox colonies are set-up near campus). There might also be some limited opportunities to carry out seabird fieldwork.

Take a look at my papers, conference presentations, and other interests to see if you might want to consider graduate work in my lab at Memorial.

¹For an eloquent description of the study of animal behaviour, go to:



Refereed Contributions

Cameron-MacMillan, M.L., Wilhelm, S.I., Walsh, C.J., Innes, D.J. & Storey, A.E. (submitted). Male chicks cost more to produce than females in a monogamous seabird, the Common Murre. Behavioral Ecology.

Wilhelm, S.I., Walsh, C.J. & Storey, A.E. (submitted). Parental negotiation and quality in the Common Murre, a monogamous seabird with long-term pair bonds. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology.

Walsh, C.J., Ralph, T.M., & Storey, A.E. (submitted). To forage or nurse: social and hormonal regulation of meadow vole nest attendance in semi-natural enclosures. Journal of Comparative Psychology.

Walsh, C.J., Wilhelm, S.I., Cameron-MacMillan, M.L., & Storey, A.E. (accepted). Extra-pair copulations in female Common Murres I: a mate attraction strategy?  Animal Behaviour.

Moody, A.T., Wilhelm, S.I., Cameron, M.L., Walsh, C.J. & Storey, A.E. (2005). Divorce in Common Murres: relationship to parental quality. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology, 57, 224-230.

Walsh, C.J., Wilhelm, S.I., Stenhouse, I.J., & Storey, A.E. (2001). Social interactions of breeding Common Murres and a Razorbill. The Wilson Bulletin, 113, 449-452.

Wilhelm, S.I., Walsh C.J., Stenhouse, I.J. & Storey, A.E. (2001). A possible Common Guillemot Uria aalge X Razorbill Alca torda hybrid. Atlantic Seabirds, 3, 85-88.

Storey, A.E., Walsh, C.J., Quinton, R.L. & Wynne-Edwards, K.E. (2000). Hormonal correlates of paternal responsiveness in new and expectant fathers. Evolution and Human Behavior, 21, 79-95.

Abbot, M.L., Walsh, C.J., Storey, A.E., Stenhouse, I.J. & Harley, C.W. (1999). Hippocampal volume is related to complexity of nesting habitat in Leach’s storm-petrel, a nocturnal procellariiform seabird. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 53, 271-276.

Fleming, A.S., Morgan, H.D., & Walsh, C.J. (1996). Experiential factors in postpartum regulation of maternal care. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 25, 295‑332.

Walsh, C.J., Fleming, A.S., Lee, A., Magnusson, J.E. (1996). The effects of olfactory and somatosensory desensitization on fos‑like immunoreactivity in the brains of pup‑exposed postpartum rats. Behavioral Neuroscience, 110, 134‑153.

Fleming, A.S., & Walsh, C.J. (1994). Neuropsychology of maternal behavior in  the rat: c‑fos expression during mother‑litter interactions. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 19, 429‑443.

Conference/ Non-refereed Contributions

Walsh, C.J., Storey, A.E. & Wilhelm, S.I. (2005). Getting to know you: extra-pair copulation as a mate attraction strategy in Common Murres. Poster presentation at the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science, 15th annual meeting, July 14-17, Montreal, Quebec.

Storey, A.E., Wilhelm, S.I. & Walsh, C.J. (2004). Evolution of parental motivation in the Common Murre (Uria aalge). Poster presentation at Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science, 14th Annual Meeting, June 12-14, St. John’s, NL.

Storey, A.E., Cameron-MacMillan, M.L., Walsh, C.J. & Wilhelm, S.I. (2004). Variation in pre-lay attendance in Common Murres: a sexually-selected quality indicator? A paper presentation at Pacific Seabird Group meeting, January 21-25, La Paz, Mexico.

Walsh, C.J. & Stenhouse, I.J. (2001). Biology in my backyard: Integrating local environmental issues into a course on animal behaviour. A presentation at “Biology As If TheWorld Mattered” (BAITWorM) Conference, May 11-15, 2001, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.

Walsh, C.J., Wilhelm, S.I., Davidson, W.S., & Storey, A.E. (2000). Seeking sperm or            social bonding? The outcome of extra‑pair copulations in Common Murres. A paper presentation at Living on the Edge: Birds 2000 (118th stated meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union in conjunction with the 19th annual meeting of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists and the British Ornithologists' Union), August 14‑19, 2000, St. John's, Newfoundland.

Walsh, C.J., Wilhelm, S.I., Stenhouse, I.J., & Storey, A.E. (2000). Living among murres: one razorbill's story. Poster presentation at Living on the Edge: Birds 2000 (118th stated meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union in conjunction with the 19th annual meeting of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists and the British Ornithologists' Union), August 14‑19, 2000, St. John's, Newfoundland.

Wilhelm, S.I., Walsh, C.J., & Storey, A.E. (2000). Pre‑lay attendance of common murres: are males on the offence or defence? Poster presentation at the Seabird Group Conference, March 17‑19, 2000, Stadthalle Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

Storey, A.E., Wilhelm, S.I., & Walsh, C.J. (2000). Pre‑laying displays of Common Murres: paternal investment or mate synchronization?  Paper presentation at Living on the Edge: Birds 2000 (118th stated meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union in conjunction with the 19th annual meeting of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists and the British Ornithologists' Union), August 14‑19, 2000, St. John's,Newfoundland.

Other Interests

The Natural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador ( )
We are a province-wide organization interested in promoting and protecting the natural values of our beautiful province for all to enjoy.

Important Bird Areas (administered by Nature Canada and Bird Life International)
This educational outreach program has exposed school-aged children and communities to the seabird research carried out in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, a designated worldwide Important Bird Area (IBA). More information about the IBA & links can be found at

The Alder Institute (
Alder is a not-for-profit collective of people interested in science, art, and media in Newfoundland & Labrador. Visit the website to learn more!

Ruff-Spots Animal Welfare Foundation, Inc. (
Our goal is to raise funds for and awareness of the importance of spaying and neutering our pets, in order to address local pet overpopulation issues.


No website (they’ll eventually set up their own), but these hockey fans are also a *big* interest of mine!

 Copyright 2006.  Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland.