Standard Talk (15 mins) Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

Investigating animal movement and behaviour with statistical physics methods: A primer for ecologists (#55)

Hannah J Calich 1 2 , Jorge P Rodríguez 3 4 5 6 , Víctor M Eguíluz 3 , Charitha Pattiaratchi 1 2 , Ana M. M. Sequeira 2 7
  1. Oceans Graduate School, University Of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia
  2. UWA Oceans Institute, Perth, WA, Australia
  3. Instituto de Física Interdisciplinar y Sistemas Complejos IFISC (CSIC – UIB), Palma de Mallorca, Spain
  4. ISI Foundation, Turin, Italy
  5. Institute for Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems (BIFI), University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain
  6. Institute Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados IMEDEA (CSIC – UIB), Esporles, Spain
  7. Division of Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Technological advancements are enabling ecologists to collect telemetry data at unprecedented rates. As the quantity and quality of telemetry data improve, these data can help answer fundamental ecological questions about animal behaviour and identify scenarios exposing species to anthropogenic threats. Analytical methods derived from statistical physics can be used to describe species’ movement strategies and suggest underlying drivers. However, these methods are not standard in movement ecology, likely because most resources assume readers have a background in physics, presenting a barrier for ecologists. To help facilitate the use of these methods in ecology, we introduce a statistical physics-based R package, PhysMove, that includes ten core methods for describing species’ collective movements, search strategies, space-use patterns, and intraspecific movements. We demonstrate these methods using satellite telemetry data from bull, great hammerhead, and tiger sharks. Results indicate that each species follows a unique movement strategy, and we discuss how these strategies may help support their co-existence. We hope to inspire the community to explore these methods and assist with advancing knowledge of the key movement drivers and fundamental properties of animal movement to better support conservation management.