ABS Student Erin Buchholtz, from the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Program was selected to attend the AniMove Summer School this September. AniMove is a rigorous 2-week course on animal movement modeling hosted by the Max Planck Institute in Radolfzell, Germany (http://animove.org). Here’s what she has to say about her experience…
Saturday morning September 8th I found myself on the way to the airport to fly to Zurich. It would be Sunday afternoon (after two flights, two trains, and a bus) that I finally arrived in the tiny town of Radolfzell, Germany – the location of the 2018 AniMove course. I knew I was in the right place when I boarded the final bus with a group of women who were scientists from Australia, Brazil, and the US and who were studying bandicoots, manatees, deer, and sheep.
The next two weeks flew by. Each day was filled with lectures and often coding in R or using open-source software like QGIS. The instructors represented a variety of world-class scientists who volunteered their time to teach this course. We learned so much from them! Each lecture was well-prepared and delivered a concentrated dose of whatever cool science the instructor was working on – from modeling behavioral states to changing how we think of home ranges. These instructors truly dedicated themselves to the full course – they were always around and open to discussing everything from code, to theory, to careers, and everything in between. During the day we also had guest speakers. We heard about the inspiring and cutting-edge science done by Dr. Iain Couzin on collective movement as well as the ICARUS initiative for satellite tracking animals from Dr. Martin Wikelski. I was surprised to find out my undergraduate adviser Dr. Dan Rubenstein from Princeton University was also there, and he gave an engaging talk on why zebras have stripes! To put a cap on each full day, we also often had keynote speakers after dinner. These speakers, which included Drs. Francesca Cagnacci, Meg Crofoot, Maelle Salmon, Justin Calabrese, and Silke Bauer spoke on everything from Open-source Science with R, to ongoing research on primate movements, to bird and deer migration. Each instructor, speaker, and student brought something unique to the course and made it an incredible experience.
A major part of the course was the ability to use your own data and work through different analyses with the assistance of instructors. Part of my dissertation relies on data from GPS collars, and these are what I analyzed at AniMove. A big part of elephant conservation is understanding where they move and why, and how we can try to reduce negative interactions between people and elephants. At AniMove, I had the opportunity to work on analyses to try and address the question of where elephants move along with guidance and help from the AniMove instructors. Also, I can’t believe what an amazing intellectual and supportive space it was to be in the Max Planck Institute, in a room full of scientists all working on interesting and exciting research!
I first heard about AniMove at a conference in 2016 when a scientist from the Smithsonian recommended I apply for it. I’m so glad that I did. It was an invaluable learning experience, and it really advanced my understanding as well as technical abilities for addressing animal movement in my research. A massive thanks to instructors Drs. Kamran Safi, Martin Wegmann, Chris Fleming, Chloe Bracis, Bjorn Reineking, Justin Calabrese, and Benjamin Leutner (plus others!) for hosting such an interactive, positive, learning experience.