Dr Rachael Miller (Harrison)

Senior Lecturer in Biology
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Life Sciences
Areas of Expertise:
Animal and environmental biology
Research Supervision:

Rachael is a comparative psychologist and behavioural ecologist, with expertise in animal cognition, behaviour, welfare and conservation, and child development.

She is broadly interested in the evolution of cognition, using comparative, ecological and developmental approaches primarily in birds and children, with a highly productive academic output and teaching record.

[email protected]

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Rachael joined ARU in December 2021. Rachael has had three Research Associate roles at Cambridge University in Prof Nicky Clayton’s Lab and Dr Lucy Cheke’s Lab, with a PhD at Vienna University with Prof Thomas Bugnyar and Dr Christine Schwab, MSc at St Andrews University with Prof Andy Whiten and MA at Glasgow University. Additionally, Rachael was a Animal Keeper and Avian Research Coordinator at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

Rachael’s current PI research is: Cognition in Animal Conservation (applying cognition research to avian conservation initiatives) & the ManyBirds Project (a big-team Open Science project on avian cognition & behaviour). She is a member of the Behavioural Ecology Research Group.

Research interests
  • Animal Cognition and Behaviour
  • Conservation Behaviour (also Cognition in Conservation)
  • Comparative Psychology
  • Big-team Science and Open Science (e.g. www.themanybirds.com)
  • Child Development
  • Behavioural Ecology
  • Animal Welfare (including husbandry, enrichment, training)
Areas of research supervision

Rachael welcomes enquiries from prospective research students in the areas of her research interests. She has previously supervised BSc, MSc and PhD students, as well as Junior Researchers and Research Assistants, in all of the above research areas.

  • BSc (Hons) Zoology
  • BSc (Hons) Ecology and Conservation
  • BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour
  • PhD in Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Austria
  • MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology, University of St Andrews, UK
  • MA (Undergraduate) with Hons in Psychology, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Advanced National Certificate in Zoo Animal Management, Sparsholt College, UK
  • PG Cert in Learning and Teaching, Anglia Ruskin University, UK (completion due Dec 2023)
Memberships, editorial boards
  • Academic Editor, PLOS ONE
  • Guest Editor, Learning and Behavior special issue (2024)
  • Grant reviewer, Austrian Science Fund, National Fund for Scientific Research
  • Membership: Association of Animal Behaviour, International Society for Behavioural Ecology, Royal Society for Protection of Birds, ARU School Research Ethics Panel committee
  • Ad hoc reviewer for journals: inc Cognition, Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology, Biology Letters, Learning & Behaviour, Animal Cognition, American Journal of Primatology, Behavioural Processes, Peer J, Frontiers in Zoology, Ethology, Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Behavior, European Journal of Wildlife Research, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Animal Behavior & Cognition
  • Guest Editor, Frontiers in Psychology special issue (2022)
Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Consultancy: Independent Contractor (Researcher, Animal Welfare Project), Rethink Priorities, 2021


  • Principal Investigator, QR Funds, Anglia Ruskin University, £3,300, 2023
  • Principal Investigator, Research Development Support Grant, Anglia Ruskin University, £10,000, 2022
  • Principal Investigator, Career Support Fund, Cambridge University, £5,000, 2021
  • Named Co-applicant, India-Oxford Initiative (awarded to Dr Nishant Kumar), Global Challenge Research Fund: £5,000, 2021
  • Isaac Newton Trust 50% matched funding for Early Career Leverhulme Fellowship (shortlisted from 700+ applicants for Leverhulme Fellowship), £50,000, 2021 and 2019
  • Named Co-applicant (with Prof Clayton) in securing funds to support lab avian research facility, Cambridge University, £50,000, 2021
  • Lead role in securing 12-month project extension supporting 6 staff members, European Research Council & University of Cambridge, €600,000, 2019
  • Marietta Blau Grant Holder (awarded to me but not taken up as accepted Cambridge University Postdoctoral post), Austrian Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, €15,000, 2015
  • Dissertation Completion Fellowship Holder (awarded to me but not taken up as accepted Cambridge University Postdoctoral post), University of Vienna, €6,000, 2015
Selected recent publications

Dunn JC, Miller R, Akcay C, Balasubramaniam K, Wascher C (2023). Conceptualization, context, and comparison are key to understanding the evolution of fear. Invited Commentary: Behavioral and Brain Sciences46, E61 doi:10.1017/S0140525X22001789

Garcia-Pelegrin E, Miller R, Wilkins C, Clayton NS (2023). Manual action expectation and biomechanical ability in three species of New World monkey. Current Biology https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2023.03.023

Gaffney LP, Lavery JM, Schiestl M, Trevarthen A, Schucraft J, Miller R, Schnell AK, Fischer B (2023). A theoretical approach to improving interspecies welfare comparisons. Frontiers in Animal Science 3: 162

Ding N, *Miller R, *Clayton NS (* = joint senior authorship)  (2023). Inhibition and cognitive flexibility are related to prediction of one's own future preferences in young British and Chinese children. Cognition 236: 105433  10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105433

*Miller R & Garcia-Pelegrin E, Danby E (* = senior and joint first author) (2022). Neophobia and innovation in critically endangered Bali myna. Royal Society Open Science 9: 211781

Miller, R., Schiestl, M., Clayton, N. S. (Accepted). Welfare in Corvids. In: Hubrecht, R. C., Kirkwood, J. (Eds.) (Forthcoming). The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare Handbook on Care and Management of Laboratory and Other Research Animals, 9th Edition (New Jersey: Wiley) (12,060 words).

Garcia-Pelegrin, E., Clark, F., Miller, R., (2022). Increasing the animal cognition research in zoos. Zoo Biology. doi: 10.1002/zoo.21674

Lambert, M., Reber, S., Garcia-Pelegrin, E., Farrar, B.,Miller, R., 2022. ManyBirds: A multi-site collaborative approach to avian cognition and behaviour research. Animal Behavior & Cognition, 9(1), pp. 133-152.

Miller, R., Lambert, M., Frohnwieser, A., Brecht, K., Bugnyar, T., Crampton, I., Garcia-Pelegrin, E., Gould, K., Greggor, A., Izawa, E., Kelly, D., Li, Z., Luo, Y., Luong, L., Massen, J., Nieder, A., Reber, S., Schiestl, M., Sepehri, P., Stevens, J., Taylor, A. H., Wang, L., Wolff, L. M., Zhang, Y., Clayton, N. S., 2021. Socio-ecological correlates of neophobia in corvids. Current Biology, 32(1), pp. 74-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.10.045

Ding, N., Frohnwieser, A., *Miller, R., *Clayton, N. S. (* = joint senior authorship), 2021. Waiting for a better reward: comparison of delay of gratification in young children across two cultures. PLoS ONE, 16(9), e0256966.

Boeckle, M., Schiestl, M., Frohnwieser, A., Gruber, R., Miller, R., Suddendorf, T., Gray, R. D., Taylor, A. H., Clayton, N. S., 2021. New Caledonian crows' planning behaviour: a reply to de Mahy, Don et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 202111271.

Boeckle, M., Schiestl, M., Frohnwieser, A., Gruber, R., Miller, R., Suddendorf, T., Gray, R. D., Taylor, A. H., Clayton, N. S., 2020. New Caledonian crows flexibly plan for specific future tool use. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287, 20201490.

Miller, R., Gruber, R., Frohnwieser, A., Schiestl, M., Jelbert, S. A., Gray, R. D., Boeckle, M., Taylor, A. H., Clayton, N. S., 2020. Decision-making flexibility in New Caledonian crows, young children and adult humans in a multi-dimensional tool-use task. PLoS ONE, 15, e0219874.

Miller, R., Frohnwieser, A., Ding, N., Troisi, C., Schiestl, M., Gruber, R., Taylor, A. H., Gray, R. D., Jelbert, S. A., Boeckle, M., Clayton, N. S., 2020. A novel test of flexible planning in relating to executive function and language in young children. Royal Society Open Science, 7, pp. 71-85.

Kövér, L. & Lengyel, S., Takenaka, M., Kirchmeir, A., Uhl, F., Miller, R., Schwab, C., 2019. Why do zoos attract crows? A comparative study from Europe and Asia. Ecology & Evolution, 9, pp. 14465-14475.

Miller, R., Frohnwieser, A., Schiestl, M., McCoy, D. E., Gray, R. D., Taylor, A. H., Clayton, N. S., 2019. Delayed gratification in New Caledonian crows and young children: influence of reward type and visibility. Animal Cognition. doi: 10.1007/s10071-019-01317-7

Miller, R., Boeckle, M., Frohnwieser, A., Jelbert, S. A., Wascher, C. A. F., Clayton, N. S., 2019. Self-control in crows, parrots and non-human primates. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 10, e1504.

Gruber, R., Schiestl, M., Boeckle, M., Frohnwieser, A., Miller, R., Gray, R. D., Clayton, N. S., Taylor, A. H., 2019. New Caledonian crows use mental representations to solve metatool problems. Current Biology, 29, pp. 686-692.

Jelbert, S. A., Miller, R., Schiestl, M., Boeckle, M., Cheke, L. G., Gray, R. D., Taylor, A. H., Clayton, N. S., 2019. New Caledonian crows infer the weight of objects from their movements in a breeze. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 20182332.

Uhl, F., Ringler, M., Miller, R., Deventer, S., Bugnyar, T., Schwab, C., 2018. Counting crows: population structure and group size variation in an urban population of crows. Behavioural Ecology, 157.

Miller, R., Jelbert, S. A., Loissel, E., Taylor, A. H., Clayton, N. S., 2017. Young children do not require perceptual-motor feedback to solve Aesop’s Fable tasks. Peer J, 5, e3483.

Davidson, G., Miller, R., Loissel, E., Cheke, L. G., Clayton, N. S., 2017. The development of support intuitions and object causality in juvenile Eurasian jays. Scientific Reports, 7, 40062.

Miller, R., Jelbert, S. A., Taylor, A. H., Cheke, L. G., Gray, R. D., Loissel, E., Clayton, N. S., 2016. Performance in object-choice Aesop’s Fable tasks are influenced by object biases in New Caledonian crows but not in human children. PLoS ONE, 11, e0168056.

Miller, R., Logan, C. J., Lister, K., Clayton, N. S., 2016. Eurasian jays do not copy the choices of conspecifics, but they do show evidence of stimulus enhancement. Peer J, 4, e2746.

Deventer, S. A., Uhl, F., Bugnyar, T., Miller, R., Fitch, W. T., Schiestl, M., Ringler, M., Schwab, C., 2016. Behavioural type affects space use in a wild population of crows. Ethology, 122, pp. 881-891.

Miller, R., Schwab, C., Bugnyar, T., 2016. Explorative innovators and flexible use of social information in common ravens and carrion crows. Journal of Comparative Psychology. doi: 10.1037/com0000039

Miller, R., Laskowski, K. L., Schiestl, M., Bugnyar, T., Schwab, C., 2016. Socially driven consistent behavioural differences during development in common ravens and carrion crows. PLoS ONE, 11, e0148822.

Miller, R., Bugnyar, T., Pölzl, K., Schwab, C., 2015. Differences in exploration behaviour in common ravens and carrion crows during development and across social context. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 69, pp. 1209-20.

Taylor, A. H., Cheke, L. G., Waismeyer, A., Meltzoff, A., Miller, R., Gopnik, A., Clayton, N. S., Gray, R. D., 2015. No conclusive evidence that corvids can create novel causal interventions. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 282, 20150796.

Knaebe, B., Taylor, A. H., Miller, R., Gray, R. D., 2015. New Caledonian crows attend to barb presence during Pandanus tool manufacture and use. Behaviour. doi: 10.1163/1568539X-00003316

Miller, R., Schiestl, M., Whiten, A., Schwab, C., Bugnyar, T., 2014. Tolerance and social facilitation in the foraging behaviour of free-ranging crows. Ethology, 120, pp. 1248-1255.

Taylor, A. H., Cheke, L. G., Waismeyer, A., Meltzoff, A., Miller, R., Gopnik, A., Clayton, N. S., Gray, R. D., 2014. Of babies and birds: complex tool behaviours are not sufficient for the evolution of the ability to create a causal intervention. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281. 20140837.

Taylor, A. H., Miller, R., Gray, R .D., 2013. Clear evidence of habituation counters counterbalancing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110, e337.

Taylor, A. H., Miller, R., Gray, R. D., 2013. The devil is unlikely to be association or distraction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110, e274.

Miller, R., King, C. E., 2013. Husbandry training, using positive reinforcement techniques, for Marabou stork at Edinburgh Zoo. International Zoo Yearbook, 47, pp. 171-180.

Taylor, A. H., Miller, R., Gray, R. D., 2012. New Caledonian crows reason about hidden causal agents. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, pp. 16389-16391.

Dufour, V., Wascher, C., Braun, A., Miller, R., Bugnyar, T., 2011. Time is money: Corvids can decide if a future transaction is worth waiting for. Biology Letters, 23, pp. 201-204.

Recent presentations and conferences

2023: Cambridgeshire Bird Club (invited talk); 2022: Manchester Metropolitan University, Avian Conservation (invited guest lecturer), British Ornithologists’ Union and IBIS Journal, Birds as individuals conference (invited keynote talk), Big-team Science Conference (talk, hackathon, panel speaker), Animal Welfare Group Nigeria (invited talk), International Society for Behavioural Ecology conference (talk), Rethink Priorities and London School of Economics, Interspecies welfare comparisons (externally funded participation), Anglia Ruskin University, Biology Seminar Series (invited talk), Employability Seminar (invited talk); 2021: Anglia Ruskin University, Conservation Behaviour Teaching Outline (invited talk); University of Cambridge, Research Staff Symposium (talk); University of Cambridge, Comparative Cognition Lab Meeting (talk); Animal Behaviour Society twitter conference (virtual attendance); 2020: Association for Study of Animal Behaviour (virtual attendance);

2012-2019: British Psychological Society (2018 & 2019: talks), European Conference for Behavioural Biology (2018 – poster & 2014 - talk), International Ethological Conference (2017 & 2013 - posters), University of Cambridge, Comparative Cognition Lab Meeting (2016 - talk), Association for Study of Animal Behaviour (2015 – attendance), International Society for Behavioural Ecology conference (2014 - talk), Evolutionary Significance of Consistent Behavioural Variation (2014 - talk), Comparative Cognition (2013 - talk), Corvid symposium (2012 - poster)

Media experience

Rachael is active in scientific outreach. She has been interviewed by the media and/or had her research featured on multiple occasions, including The Conversation (https://theconversation.com/why-were-interviewing-captive-birds-to-find-the-best-to-release-into-the-wild-202874), Independent, Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph, Le Monde, New Scientist, The Herald, Cambridgeshire Independent, Science Daily, Phys.org, National Geographic, Psychology Today, Science Alert, Cell, The Wildlife Society, Daily Star, Popular Science, Inverse, Ethologische; TV show - “The mind of the universe” VPRO (Netherlands); Radio – BBC Radio 4 Today’s Programme; BBC Radio Cambridgeshire; Associated Press Feature.