Dr. Alex K. Schnell
Newton International Fellow in Behavioural Ecology & Comparative Psychology at the University of Cambridge | Series Researcher for Planet Earth III at the BBC Natural History Unit
I grew up on the coast of Sydney, Australia and spent most of my time by the beach – swimming, exploring, and discovering. By age 5, my immense fascination with the ocean had been cultivated. Since then, everything in my life has revolved around my love for nature and my passion for wildlife.
My desire for exploration and my love of learning motivated me to complete a Bachelor of Marine Science at the University of Sydney. However, my thirst for knowledge was far from quenched. I later enrolled in a Ph.D. program with the Marine Predator Research Group at Macquarie University where I worked to unravel the mysteries of cuttlefish behaviour.
My major accomplishments include collaborating with leading biological experts, presenting at numerous conferences, and creating scientific and animal behaviour content for target audiences through radio interviews, press releases, social media platforms, articles in science magazines, and wildlife film documentaries.
My professional career has been directed towards furthering our understanding of the remarkable behaviours of non-human animals. The underlying driver of this pursuit has been my desire to motivate and inspire others to appreciate and marvel at the incredible wonder of animal life on Earth. Research shows that when people truly understand nature they become intrinsically motivated to conserve it.
I am currently working at the University of Cambridge as a Newton International Fellow, funded by the Royal Society, and as a Research Fellow at Darwin College. My research focuses on quantifying intelligence in cephalopods – large-brained marine molluscs. The goal of this research is to determine whether cephalopods possess comparable cognitive abilities to cognitively advanced vertebrates such as corvids. Comparative data between such distantly related taxa will provide a unique perspective for understanding the origins of complex intelligence, as well as the provenance of human intelligence.
‘The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living’