Movement is fundamental to organismal life and constitutes the mechanistic link explaining the patterns observed in many ecological processes. Measures of animal movement, e.g. dispersal, residence time, home range size and overlap, form the basis of fundamental ecology theories and are essential for managing wildlife populations or predicting disease transmission rates. Hence research on the patterns, causes and consequences of the movement of organisms has pervaded all fields of ecology, as reflected by the large number of movement-related publications in the BES Journals, including Special Features (e.g. see here) and Virtual Issues. This wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary and highly popular field of research has recently been conceptually unified under the term ‘Movement Ecology’ and we are very excited to launch the new BES Movement Ecology Special Interest Group (SIG) this week at the Annual Meeting in Liverpool!
We aim to (i) act as a central forum to unite researchers and help clarify conceptual and methodological misconceptions, (ii) attract new Movement Ecology researchers, from within and outside the discipline of ecology and biosciences and (iii) guide the development of novel research, especially interdisciplinary research combining technical, computational, and theoretical developments to obtain a refined understanding of the role of organism movements in driving ecological processes. To do so, we will organise regular meetings, workshops and training initiatives, and online and ‘in vivo’ events.
Now, some of you may ask ‘why yet another SIG?’. We strongly believe that it fills a quite ‘empty SIG niche’! So, it could certainly be argued that existing BES SIGs include several aspects of movement ecology – such as the Quantitative Ecology, Conservation Ecology or Aquatic Ecology SIGs – but none has a remit broad enough to encompass the wide range of issues included in Movement Ecology. For example, the development of novel statistical or computational methods is a crucial aspect of Movement Ecology and is certainly the purview of the Quantitative Ecology SIG, yet studies investigating behavioural strategies or sensory capacities of moving animals or bacteria are not. Quantifying animal movements is a key part of many management plans, hence would fall under the remit of the Conservation SIG, but not so the development of the novel tagging and biologging technology which is currently revolutionizing the field, or the development of theoretical frameworks unifying movement processes of animals, plants and microbes. As such, we aim to attract and unite researchers from cross-disciplinary fields, including physics, mathematics, conservation, engineering, geography and sports science.
What we plan to do?
In general, we aim to provide a basis for regular communications and discussions through a dedicated blog that we aim to launch with guest posts by group members and movement ecology researchers. We will set up also an email list, complemented by a Twitter feed and Facebook group, each featuring news, group activities (including discussions on specific topics), job and training opportunities. We are also planning to set up an annual competition for best graphical/video representation of movement ecology principlaes/data/findings. Most importantly, we are all open to your suggestions!
A key feature will be an annual workshop meeting. For example, this will allow us to introduce new quantitative and analytical methods and provide training in the computational approaches and statistical theory necessary to implement these methods to their fullest. Other ideas include public engagement activities to divulgate research finding, for example by collaborating with ‘Pint of Science’, ‘Soapbox Science’, Quirks & Quarks in Canada, the NPR’s Science Friday in the US, and similar initiatives in Australia and New Zealand. On a longer term, we plan to host a “Questions, Tools and Theory for Movement Ecology” workshop open to all levels that addresses topics including (i) the development of novel sensor technology, (ii) ‘big data’ methods to process the large amounts of movement data collected by new technologies, and (iii) the development of novel mathematical and statistical frameworks to accommodate the biological information provided by new technologies (a key topic hampering progress in the field). Similarly, we would like to organize a dedicated early career workshop on the theme of “Movement Ecology: From Individual Movements to Ecosystem Consequences”, aimed at PhDs, post-doctoral associates, and Early Career Fellows.
So join us this year at #BES2016 for our launch event on Tuesday evening before the gala dinner, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Keep an eye out for #BESmove as we share exciting new projects and research at this year’s annual conference. And, most importantly, get involved! We will also be looking for student representatives (we’re looking at you, undergraduate and graduate movement ecologists!), and for new members ready to explore the implications of movement for their research projects. We look forward to seeing you at #BES2016 – and afterwards!