Professor Russell David Gray

PhD (FRSNZ)

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Professor

Biography

Russell completed his PhD at the University of Auckland in 1990. He spent four years as a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Otago before returning to Auckland. He has served on the University of Auckland and Faculty of Science research committees and was on the Marsden Grant panel from 2002-2004.

Research | Current

Russell’s research has made significant contributions to the fields of linguistics, animal cognition, philosophy of biology and behavioural phylogenetics. He pioneered the application of computational evolutionary methods to questions about linguistic prehistory. This work has helped solve the 200 year-old debate on the origin of Indo-European languages, dubbed by Diamond and Bellwood (2003) as “the most recalcitrant problem in historical linguistics”.

More recently, he used sophisticated Bayesian phylogenetic methods to test hypotheses about the sequence and timing of the peopling of the Pacific. His work with Dr Gavin Hunt on New Caledonian crows has revealed that their remarkable tool manufacturing skills are the product of a lengthy learning period and are underpinned by brains with large associative regions and the ability to make causal inferences.

His research has attracted world-wide media attention including full page articles in The New York Times, Time and Le Monde and has featured on several international television documentaries. He has published over 100 journal articles and book chapters including seven papers in Nature and Science.


Media links

Distinctions/Honours

  • Hood Fellow
  • James Cook Fellow
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand

Responsibilities

  • Deputy Director of School, Research

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Editorial Boards member of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Evolutionary Bioinformatics, and Frontiers (Comparative Psychology)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Botero, C. A., Gardner, B., Kirby, K. R., Bulbulia, J., Gavin, M. C., & Gray, R. D. (2014). The ecology of religious beliefs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111 (47), 16784-16789.
  • Taylor, A. H., Miller, R., & Gray, R. D. (2012). New Caledonian crows reason about hidden causal agents. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 109 (40), 16389-16391. 10.1073/pnas.1208724109
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/23033
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Alexander Taylor
  • Bouckaert, R., Lemey, P., Dunn, M., Greenhill, S. J., Alekseyenko, A. V., Drummond, A. J., ... Atkinson, Q. D. (2012). Mapping the origins and expansion of the Indo-European language family. Science, 337 (6097), 957-960. 10.1126/science.1219669
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Quentin Atkinson, Remco Bouckaert, Alexei Drummond
  • Levinson, S. C., & Gray, R. D. (2012). Tools from evolutionary biology shed new light on the diversification of languages. Trends in Cognitive Sciences
  • Dunn, M., Greenhill, S. J., Levinson, S. C., & Gray, R. D. (2011). Evolved structure of language shows lineage-specific trends in word-order universals. Nature, 473, 79-82. 10.1038/nature09923
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/17580
  • Currie, T. E., Hasegawa, T., MacE, R., Greenhill, S. J., & Gray, R. D. (2010). Rise and fall of political complexity in island South-East Asia and the Pacific. Nature, 467 (7317), 801-804. 10.1038/nature09461
  • Gray, R. D., Drummond, A. J., & Greenhill, S. J. (2009). Language phylogenies reveal expansion pulses and pauses in Pacific settlement. Science, 323 (5913), 479-483. 10.1126/science.1166858
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/17581
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Alexei Drummond

Contact details

Primary location

HUMAN SCIENCES BUILDING - EAST - Bldg 201E
Level 3, Room 325
10 SYMONDS ST
AUCKLAND 1010
New Zealand