Collective sensing of the resource landscape in migratory fruit bats

Migration is a common phenomenon in birds, but is rare in bats. It is thought to be resource driven, but it is unknown for most bats how the coordinated, sudden appearance of animals at a colony occurs. Are bats just following the shifting resource landscape, or do social interactions guide the direction and distance that bats move to find their next home? The African straw-coloured fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) is one of these few species that regularly migrate over long distances. This species occurs in vast colonies across the tropical belt of Africa from where it then seasonally migrates, probably into the savannah, during the rainy season. We will use long-term deployments of ICARUS GPS tags to track individuals as they move across ecosystems. Local higher-resolution GPS tracking will be used to identify and monitor food trees to measure how movement decisions are related to foraging returns relative to energetic expenditure. This will allow us to explore how colonies may function as extended sensory networks to scout out environmental conditions and trigger the massive migratory movements of these colonies.

Position details: This position would involve tagging large bats, ground truthing tracks and visiting stop-over sites. You would have to work closely with African collaborators and take the lead on organizing the logistics of field trips. Data analysis would cover movement data, remote sensing, and drone image analysis using machine learning techniques for food availability extrapolations. Starting time is flexible in 2019. This position is funded by the "Collective Behaviour" cluster and will involve cross-disciplinary collaboration with departments at the University of Konstanz.

Qualifications: Preferably experienced with working with small mammals or birds in the field. Experienced with travelling in tropical remote places. Working (predominantly at night) under very basic conditions independently and spend significant amounts of time in the field is required. Must have an interest/previous experience with handling large datasets. Working language in the group and institute is English and good English skills are required.

Keywords: migration, animal tracking, GPS, foraging, energetic expenditure, sensory networks

Advisors: Teague O'Mara, Dina Dechmann and Martin Wikelski, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell

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