Thoughts and Emotions of our Fellow Creatures: Animal Cognition with Virginia Morell

Cheetahs that die from heartbreak! Parrots that can comprehend the concept of “same” and “different”! Gangs of boy dolphins that cooperate to keep their girls in check! Moths that remember living as caterpillars!

Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of our Fellow Creatures, will lecture on all such fascinating tidbits about animal cognition and emotion on Thursday, March 7, from 7 – 9 p.m., at OSU’s LaSells Stewart Center, C&E Auditorium. The lecture, which is sponsored by the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word, is free and open to the public.

Morell, a science writer for National Geographic and Science, will take us on a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals, from ants to elephants to wolves to sharp-shooting archerfish.  With 30 years of experience covering the sciences, Morell will use her formidable gifts as a story-teller to transport us to field sites and laboratories around the world, introducing us to pioneering animal-cognition researchers and their surprisingly intelligent and sensitive subjects.

She’ll explore how this rapidly evolving, controversial field has only recently overturned old notions about why animals behave as they do. She will probe the moral and ethical dilemmas of recognizing that even “lesser animals” have cognitive abilities such as memory, feelings, personality, and self-awareness.

This is not just fascinating, but important work. As the renowned biologist and conservationist George Schaller wrote of Morell’s book, “The recognition that we are bound in mind to many other creatures, all of them dependent on us for survival, will, I hope, arouse our compassion and assure them a future.”

So, come hear how ants teach, earthworms make decisions, and dogs have thousand-word vocabularies. Come hear how birds practice songs in their sleep, crows improvise tools, and blue jays plan ahead. You’ll never regard an animal the same way again.

by Nathaniel Brodie