Gisela Kaplan

Emeritus Professor - School of Science & Technology

Gisela Kaplan

Mobile: 0428 575 619



Professor Gisela Kaplan is an Emeritus Professor in Animal Behaviour in the School of Science and Technology. She is the author of over 250 research articles and 21 books, and has conducted ground-breaking research into vocal learning, communication and cognition of birds and other vertebrates. She has become a public voice for science on wildlife, especially native birds, and is regularly heard in public media.

Professor Kaplan has been recognised by a series of awards for her research and writings such as a shared human rights award in 1994, a Federation Community Services Award in 2001 (for services to wildlife), a Wilderness Society Award (2005), as a winner of the Australian Publishing Association Award in the single book category (2005). Her book 'The Australian Magpie'. attained bestseller status by the publisher. and in 2016 her book 'Bird Minds. Cognition and behaviour of Australian native birds' was awarded the prestigious Whitley Award (behavioural zoology).

Professor Kaplan serves on a variety of scientific research panels, on national granting bodies in Australia and elsewhere, is member of Editorial Boards  of several journals, a member of the Springer series Board of Editors for its new Numanities series, is regular assessor for over 20 prestigious scientific international journals and in her spare time continues to participate in animal welfare debates, in environmental education and science interest in school children and the general public as well as rehabilitates native birds under licence.


B.A. (Hons., First Class), Grad. Dip. Ed., M.A. (Monash), Ph.D. (Monash University, Melbourne), Ph.D. (Vet. Science, UQ-Deans Commendation for Excellence in Research Award), Hon. DSc. (UNE)


She is currently a

  • Life member of the International Primatological Society (IPS)
  • Elected honorary fellow of the American Ornithology Union
  • (list of 100 most eminent ornithologist worldwide)
  • Member of the Royal Society of New South Wales
  • Patron of the Dingo Conservation Society of Australia
  • Member of the Australian Psychological Society (20 years service award)
  • Member of the Centre for Veterinary Education
  • Member of Australian Neuroscience Society
  • Member of Australian Authors

Research Interests

Prof. Kaplan's main research interests are in complex cognition and communication. One of the model species for this research is one of Australia's foremost songbirds (the Australian magpie, Gymnorhina tibicen) capable of elucidating important points about vocal learning, brain plasticity and the implications of sustained parental care, asking also why complex cognition had evolved in so many Australian birds and why so many are extremely long-lived compared to high latitude birds. Her research on Australian magpies has offered an extremely rich field of discovery. Among other things, Professor Kaplan described the development and range of mimicry, discovered referential signaling and was the first to report pointing behaviour in any avian species. Her research has been supported by Australian Research Council (ARC) grants.


(Select publications list)

Recent books (on animal behaviour)

  1. Kaplan Gisela (2015) Bird Minds. Cognition and behaviour of Australian native species. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.286 pp.
  2. Kaplan, Gisela (2007) Tawny Frogmouth. CSIRO, Melbourne. ISBN978064 092396, pbk. 155 pp.
  3. Kaplan, Gisela (2004, 2005, 2008) Australian Magpie: Biology and Behaviour of an Unusual Songbird. Natural History Series, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney & CSIRO, Melbourne, ISBN 0-643 09068 1, pbk. 142 pp.
  4. Rogers, Lesley J. and Kaplan, Gisela eds. (2004) Comparative Vertebrate Cognition:  Are Primates Superior to Non-primates. Kluwer Primatology Series: Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospect. Kluwer Academic /Plenum Publishers, New York, Boston, Dordrecht, London, Moscow.ISBN 0-306-47727-0, Hbk, 386 pp.
  5. Kaplan, G. and Rogers, L.J. (2004) Gene Worship. Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate over Genes, Brain and Gender, Other Press LLC, New York and London, ISBN: 1590510348, Hbk, 304 pp.
  6. Kaplan, Gisela (2003) Famous Australian Birds. Allen & Unwin, Melbourne. ISBN 1 86508 835 8.
  7. Rogers, Lesley J. and Kaplan, Gisela (2003) Spirit of the Wild Dog, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, ISBN 186508 673 8, pb, 229 pp.
  8. Rogers, Lesley J. and Kaplan, Gisela (2008) Spirit of the Wild Dog: The World of Wolves, Coyotes, Foxes, Jackals and Dingoes, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, ISBN 186508 673 8, e-book.
  9. Kaplan Gisela and Rogers Lesley J., (2008) Birds. Their Habits and Skills, e-book: originally published by Allen & Unwin, Sydney, ISBN 1 86508 376 3, 272 pages, 2008.
  10. Rogers, L.J. and Kaplan, Gisela (2000) Songs, Roars and Rituals. Communication in birds, mammals and other animals. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (completely rev. version of 1998 pub.'Not Only Roars and Rituals'), ISBN 0 674 00058 7, 207 pp.
  11. Kaplan, Gisela and Rogers, L.J. (1999) The Orang-Utans Allen & Unwin, Sydney, ISBN 1 86508 124 8, 185 pp.

Selected refereed papers

Kaplan, Gisela  (2016) Don Quixote’s Windmills. Ch.  14 in Thinking about Animals in the Age of the Anthropocene. (ed. by M. Tonnessen,, Kristin Armstrong  Oma and ) pp.284-305. Lexington Books  (imprint of Rowman & Littlefield).

Kaplan, Gisela (2016) ‘So little brain, so much mind. Intelligence and behavior in non human animals’ by Felice Cimatti, Giorgio Vallortigara. Italian Journal of Cognitive Science (in press)

O’Neill Adam J, Cairns Kylie M, Kaplan Gisela, Healy Ernest (2016). Managing Dingoes on Fraser Island: Implications of lethal control. Pacific Conservation Biology 23: 4–14;

Kaplan, G., (2014) Animal Communication. Invited Advanced Review. WIREs Cog Science . doi: 10.1002/wcs.1321.

English M, Kaplan G, Rogers LJ (2014).  Is painting by elephants in zoos as enriching as we are led to believe? PeerJ. DOI 10.7717/peerj.471. 19pp.

Kaplan G and Rogers LJ (2013). Stability of referential signalling across time and locations: Testing alarm calls of Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) in urban and rural Australia and in Fiji., PeerJ 1:e112; DOI 10.7717/peerj.11.

Kemp, C. and Kaplan, G. (2013). Facial expressions in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) and their use by conspecifics. Anim Cogn DOI 10.1007/s10071-013-0611

Koboroff A, Kaplan G, Rogers L (2013). Clever strategists: Australian Magpies vary mobbing strategies, not intensity, relative to different species of predator. PeerJ, DOI 10.7717/peerj.56:1-14

Kaplan G (2011). Pointing gesture in a bird- merely instrumental or a cognitively complex behavior? Online Special Issue ‘Animal Cognition’, Current Zoology 57 (4): 453-467

Suthers, R., Wild, M. and Kaplan, G. (2010). Mechanisms of song production in the  Australian magpie. Journal of Comparative Physiology –A DOI 10.1007/s00359-010-0585-6 (Sept 2010), printed (2011): vol. 197 (1): 45-59.

Kaplan, G. (2010). Pointing gesture in a bird- merely instrumental or a cognitively complex behavior? Online Special Issue ‘Animal Cognition’, printed 2011: Current Zoology 57 (4): 453−467.

Brown, J., Kaplan, G., Rogers, L.J. and Vallortigara, G. (2010). Perception of biological motion in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus): by females only. Animal Cognition, 13: 555-564.

Kaplan, G. (2009). Animals and Music: Between cultural definitions and sensory evidence. Sign System Studies, 37 (3/4): 75-101.

Kaplan, G., Johnson, G., Koboroff, A. and Rogers, L.J.  (2009) Alarm calls of the Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen): I. Predators Elicit Complex Vocal Responses and Mobbing Behaviour. The Open Ornithology Journal 2:7-16.

Vallortigara, G., Snyder, A., Kaplan, G. Bateson, P, Clayton NS and Rogers, LJ (2008) Are animals autistic savants? PLoS Biology 6 (2) e42. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060042.

Kaplan, G. (2008). The Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen): An alternative model for the study of songbird neurobiology. In P. Zeigler and P. Marler (eds). The Neuroscience of Birdsong. Cambridge University Press, pp.153-170.

Kaplan, Gisela (2008). Alarm calls and referentiality in Australian Magpies: Between midbrain and forebrain, can a case be made for complex cognition? Brain Research Bulletin 76, 253-263.

Koboroff, A., Kaplan, G. and Rogers, L.J. (2008). Hemispheric specialization in Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) shown as eye preferences during response to a predator. Brain Research Bulletin 76,304-306.

Kaplan, G. (2006). Alarm calls, communication and cognition in Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) Acta Zoologica Sinica, 52, (Supplement): 614-617.

MacFarlane, Geoff R., Blomberg, Simon P., Kaplan, Gisela and Rogers, Lesley J. (2006) Same-sex sexual behaviour in birds: expression is related to social mating system and state of development. Behavioural Ecology, vol.18(1):21-33.

Rogers, L.J and Kaplan, G. (2006). Think or be damned: Problematic case of higher cognition in animals and legislation for animal welfare. Journal of Animal Law 12 (2): 151-191.

Kaplan, Gisela (2006) Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen. Voice. The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, senior ed. John Peter, in conjunction with Birds Australia ,vol. 7, Part A, Oxford University Press, pp. 605-608, 613-616.

Kaplan, Gisela (2006) Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen. Social Organization. Social Development. The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, senior ed. John Peter, in conjunction with Birds Australia ,vol. 7, Part A, Oxford

Rogers L.J. and Kaplan G. (2004).  All animals are not equal: the interface between scientific knowledge and the legislation for animal rights?, In C.R. Sunstein and M. C. Nussbaum (eds.), Animal Rights: Law and Policy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-512176-4, pp.175-204, 2004.

Kaplan G. and Rogers L.J. (2002) Patterns of eye gazing in orangutans, International Journal of Primatology, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 501-526, June 2002.