Tracking animal migrations has become easier… now what?

Salmon navigate across vast swaths of open ocean and a maze of branching river networks to locate their natal waters. For years, scientists have described this as heroic feats of individuals.

More recently, though, researchers have observed that salmon migrating in large groups more accurately navigate home than salmon in smaller groups. Other species also migrate en masse over land and through air, and emerging hypotheses suggest some animals take advantage of collective navigation – a kind of group decision-making that helps get them where they’re going. For scientists, though, testing these ideas in the wild can be technically and logistically difficult.

During a three-day working group at SFI, roughly a dozen ecologists and computer scientists will explore ways technologies might help researchers better understand why and how individuals in migrating groups make the choices they do.