Paper Of The Week: : Nesterova et al. (2015) The Effect Of Experienced Individuals On Navigation By King Penguin Chick Pairs.

22 Apr

While GIS is often used in biology to study how species are distributed over large areas, or monitor the movements of individuals over long distances, it can also be used for studying biology at much smaller scales. This is nicely demonstrated by this week’s paper of the week: Nesterova et al. (2015) The Effect Of Experienced Individuals On Navigation By King Penguin Chick Pairs. Animal Behaviour, 104: 69 – 78.

In this neat little study, the researchers investigated how long it took king penguin chicks to return to their original locations after they were displaced. This is an important survival skill because if chicks get displaced while their parents are away foraging at sea, thy need to be able to get back to their proper place in the colony or their parents will not be able to find them again. Amongst other things, this paper found that the more experienced the chick, the quicker they were able to return to their rightful place.

In terms of GIS, it provides a nice example of how GIS analysis can be used to help study aspects of behaviour that are occurring at very fine scales. In addition, the analysis wasn’t conducted in traditional GIS software. Instead, it was conducted in R, an open source software package which is already widely used by biologists and ecologists for statistical analysis. While there are some potential pitfalls to its use, R is rapidly becoming an important tool for conducting GIS in biology as it allows the close integration of GIS and spatial statistical analyses in ways that are not currently possible in specialist GIS software packages.

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Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology
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