Written by: Hanna Kavli Lodberg-Holm and Rasmus Mohr Mortensen
We were two PhD candidates from the University College of Southeast Norway who attended a five-day course in Movement Ecology in Wales, February 2018. We both work with spatial movement patterns of beavers, and this course covered a wide range of topics that will be very relevant for our projects. The course was run by PR Statistics and was taught by Professor Luca Borger and Professor Rory Wilson from Swansea University, together with Dr. Jonathan Potts from The University of Sheffield. Most of the participants were other PhD students, mostly from Europe and North America.
We stayed at Margam Discovery Centre in Wales and had all lectures in the same building. The Discovery Centre is an environmental education centre with a very modern functionalistic architecture designed for sustainability and a low-carbon footprint. It is located in Margam Country Park, which has its own deer herd and a spectacular old gothic castle. The beautiful surroundings in the park were perfect for short lunch hikes between classes, and to spot grazing deer around the buildings. There were also ponies, donkeys, pigs, geese and sheep grazing around the centre, which facilitated for animal cuddles between lectures. Most of the participants and the lecturers stayed in the discovery centre, which allowed for interesting discussions and social interactions between and after lectures.
The course provided us with an introduction to several statistical techniques to explore animal movements. The first two days focused on different biologgers such as GPS, accelerometers and magnetometer technology to quantify animal posture, speed, behaviour, energetics and trajectories. This part of the course was very hands-on, where we tagged each other with accelerometers and experimented with different analytical methods to classify our movements. One task was for example to recreate the movement pattern of a person who had been walking, jumping and doing other postures by analysing how the gravitational axes of the accelerometer would be affected by different postures. Later we dove more into different statistical methods for movement path analysis, such as step length and turning points, movement path segmentation and squared displacement. The last two days focused on the mathematics behind spatial analysis and we worked with resource selection and integrated step selection analysis, as well as different home range estimators.
The combination of beautiful natural surroundings in Wales, excellent lectures and a very nice social atmosphere made it a great course. Not only did we get a very good overview of different spatial analysis methods, we also made many useful contacts with both the other participants and lecturers. We strongly recommend the course to anyone working with animal movement patterns and habitat use.
Photos: Hanna Kavli Lodberg-Holm and Rasmus Mohr Mortensen