Random walks for modelling and analysis of animal movement behaviour

Prof Edward A. Codling (University of Essex)

Thursday 1st December, 2022 14:00-15:00 Maths 311B / Zoom (ID: 863 7636 2448)


In this talk I will introduce the basic concepts behind random walks and explain how they can be used to model and analyse animal movement and behaviour. In the first part of the talk, I will show how random walk theory can be used to make predictions about the efficiency of individual animal navigation in a simple theoretical navigation problem that is relevant across a range of scales (from large scale migration to short scale search and target-finding). I will show how an approximation for navigational efficiency can be derived mathematically in a biased and correlated random walk (BCRW) model and will demonstrate the counter-intuitive result that giving higher weighting to indirect navigational cues may in many cases be the most efficient navigation strategy. I will subsequently show how the model can be extended to consider collective group navigation such as in migrating flocks of birds or schools of fish. In the second part of the talk, I will show how random walk analysis approaches can be used to explore and interpret real animal movement data sets. In particular, I will show how metrics of space-use and movement can be used to detect behavioural differences between healthy and ill dairy cows, or how groups of cows may respond in a maladaptive manner to increases in temperature. Finally, I will explain how we have been applying similar analysis techniques to other managed animals such as zoo elephants or working farm dogs.

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