Throughout history people have wanted to understand how animals move. In the Stone Age this was essential for hunting, whereas today knowing movement patterns allows us to predict pest outbreaks, conserve rare animals and much more.
The development of video, radio and GPS technology has made it possible to obtain large amount of information about animal movement which then requires development of new methods for the statistical analysis and interpretation of this data.
Animal movement research is led by Dr. Alla Mashanova and currently focuses on cattle grazing behaviour. Video-recording and statistical analysis of insect movement is another area of interest.
Understanding grazing behaviour is important for a range of reasons: on one side it might allow to optimise the use of pastures and to reduce farmers' costs on supplementary feeding animals,
We use small GPS devices attached to a neck collar to track animals. We collaborate with Boltons Park Farm to study behaviour of dairy cows and with Maydencroft Farm where longhorn cattle is used for conservational grazing.
To understand animal movement patterns it is important to record and analyse paths of:
- large number of animals
- at relatively small time intervals.
Using free GMimPro software hundreds of individuals can be tracked simultaneously. As an example, recording and analysing movement of aphids showed that ant semiochemicals reduce aphid movement which help ants (who feed on aphid excretions - honeydew) to keep their herd together.
When analysing paths we are interested in:
- Why animals start and stop moving?
- What is the best model to describe their movement pattern?
- Are there individual variations in movement pattern?
- Are there variations in time – e.g. do animals switch between different modes of movement?
- Which external factors affect movement patterns?
For further information go to Dr. Alla Mashanova's research profile.