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New approach to animal movement modeling combining ecological and cognitive sciences, with application to wildlife responses to infrastructure (EcologyOfMovement)
Start date: Aug 1, 2011, End date: Jul 31, 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Movement is the primary response of animals to spatiotemporal heterogeneity in ecological conditions. The consequences of movement for individual fitness, populations and ecological communities give this behavior a central place in ecological theory. Human activities alter both spatiotemporal variations in ecological conditions triggering movements (e.g. resource distribution) and availability of movement corridors (e.g. destruction of migration routes). An understanding of factors driving animal movements, affecting their mechanics, and characterizing the preferred travel routes is essential for ecological theory and to evaluate the impact of human activities on population dynamics and on the potential for human-wildlife conflicts. Due to recovering ungulate populations and increased road and rail traffic, ungulate-vehicle collisions represent an important source of conflict. These collisions lead to casualties, injuries and substantial economical losses. Due to poor knowledge of movement drivers and mechanics, mitigating measures currently taken to minimize the probability of collisions are often inadequate and inefficient. Despite the 10-year old call for a “behavioral ecology of ecological landscapes” (Lima & Zollner 1996), only limited information about cognitive mechanisms underlying movement is included in fundamental and applied ecology. During the past decades behavioral scientists have made important progresses in the understanding of animal spatial cognition and goal-oriented movements in laboratory settings. This project proposes a novel interdisciplinary approach to develop a mechanistic movement model integrating theory on space use from ecology in natural settings with theories from behavioral and cognitive sciences in the laboratory. Such model will have a broad range of applications in theoretical and applied animal movement ecology. We will use this model to identify risk areas for moose-vehicle collisions in Norway and guide mitigating actions.

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