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Animals as Mobile Social Users

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Abstract: Recent advances in data collection technology, such as GPS and other mobile sensors, high definition cameras, and UAVs have given biologists access to high spatial and temporal resolution data about animal populations. Many of the questions biologists are asking while trying to leverage those data are similar to questions being asked about mobile users. Why do animals go here rather than there? How does location influence activity and social interactions? How do social interactions influence activity and movement choices? How are movement decision being made in a group and individually?

While some of the methodology for answering those questions has been developed for understanding human behavior, animals offer the advantage of visible and trackable interactions and movements, simpler context and rules of behavior, and no privacy issues. I will present examples of the recent developments from the mobile world of animal populations, show some of the methodology we have developed for understanding their mobile social networks, and discuss the challenges for understanding these kinds of data, common to all animals, including humans.

Bio: Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she heads the Computational Population Biology Lab. Her research interests are in applications of computational techniques to problems in population biology of plants, animals, and humans, from genetics to social interactions. As a legitimate part of her research she gets to fly in a super-light airplane over a nature preserve in Kenya, taking a hyper-stereo video of zebra populations. Dr. Berger-Wolf has received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002. After spending some time as a postdoctoral fellow working in computational phylogenetics and doing research in computational epidemiology, she returned to Illinois. She has received numerous awards for her research and mentoring, including the US National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2008 and the UIC Mentor of the Year (2009) and Graduate Mentor (2012) awards.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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