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Digital maps and minimal animals in movement ecology

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In the 1960s ecologists began using computers to model the movements of individual animals. Looking for deep underlying patterns, they stripped away environmental conditions and social relationships to reveal the bare geometries of movement through space. Computer-generated maps played an important role in this development. The depiction of complex paths through the repetition of basic visual elements helped establish the commensurability of simulated and empirically observed movements and of the movements of animals of different species under various conditions. With the increasing availability of GPS tags and other tracking techniques, this approach has recently attracted renewed attention under the rubric of ‘movement ecology’. This paper uses the history of movement ecology to investigate the relationship between high-volume data collection, computer-based modeling and visualization, and ideas about the nature and capabilities of nonhuman animals.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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