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FRIPRO-Fri prosjektstøtte

PopFlow: a novel framework for animal movement, from individual ltrajectories to population flows

Alternative title: PopFlow: et nytt rammeverk for bevegelse av dyr, fra individuelle ltrajektorier til befolkningsstrømmer

Awarded: NOK 6.9 mill.

People have always been intrigued by how animals move. Whether they are seasonal migrations or juvenile dispersal, movements play a crucial role in large-scale population processes like population expansion, decline, or recolonization. However, tracking and understanding these movements in the wild, especially for entire animal populations, is extremely challenging. Consequently, and despite recent advancements in computer science and population ecology, researchers still study individual animal movements separately from population-level patterns. The mission of project PopFlow is to tackle this "movement problem" by bridging the gap between movement ecology (which typically looks at a few individuals) and population ecology (which focuses on entire populations). Using the latest methods in population dynamics and movement ecology, and with access to the world's most extensive dataset on large carnivores, the PopFlow team will bring together experts in statistics, data science, population ecology, and wildlife management to develop innovative ways to study the movements of animals in entire populations. Ultimately, the project aims to apply these new methods to better understand the movements of large carnivores in Scandinavia, such as wolves, wolverines, and bears. This deeper understanding of how large carnivore populations behave will in turn help us manage and conserve them more effectively.

Animal movement has long fascinated humankind. Yet, we still struggle to quantify animal movements and to understand how wildlife population flows emerge from the combination of individual movements. Our ability to estimate individual animal movement at the scale of entire populations is inhibited by i) the complexity of the movement process and ii) the lack of an adequate analytical framework. Despite recent advancements in movement modeling and population ecology, individual movement trajectories and their manifestation at the population level are still studied separately. Recent developments in population monitoring methods led to an accumulation of large-scale datasets and associated statistical methods to analyze them. This creates a unique opportunity to revisit the “movement problem” in population ecology and bring together the fields of movement ecology—traditionally focused on a few individuals—and population ecology —traditionally focused on population-level processes. Based on the most recent methodological developments in the fields of population dynamics and movement ecology, and with access to the largest individual-based dataset of large carnivore population monitoring worldwide, project PopFlow will bring together a complementary team of statisticians, data scientists, movement and population ecologists, and wildlife managers to bridge this gap. The project's main goals are to 1) develop and evaluate large-scale individual-based movement models, 2) characterize species-specific dispersal strategies, 2) identify drivers and barriers to movement, and 3) map and predict population flows of wolves (Canis lupus), wolverines (Gulo gulo) and bears (Ursus arctos) in Scandinavia. Project PopFlow will foster a deeper understanding of animal movement and of the functioning of wildlife populations, and genertate practical guidelines and tools to study animal movement in wildlife populations.

Funding scheme:

FRIPRO-Fri prosjektstøtte