It was a great MESS – Movement Ecology Summer School 2015

The second Movement Ecology Summer School, organized by the Ozgul’s group as part of the PhD Program in Ecology of the Life Science Zurich Graduate School, has been a great success. Twenty-five highly motivated students from UZH/ETHZ and from overseas gathered at the Ostello-Cappuccini in Faido (Ticino) for what has been an inspiring and productive week.

Under the guidance and supervision of leading scientists (Gabriela S, John F, Luca B, Garrett S, Frank P and Gabriele C) the participants learned to source and manipulate remote sensing imagery, to decompose movement trajectories, to compute home ranges and investigate habitat selection. All these skills combined were used to disentangle the movement behavior of Apollo, Botswana’s most famous spotted hyena!

The movements of Apollo were thoroughly analysed during the entire week. All results pointed towards a univocal conclusion: Apollo is by far Botswana’s most famous spotted hyena.


Participants had the opportunity to alternate high-quality lectures with social activities, which had the scope to create a cohesive group and promote interactions and establish future collaborations.

Great food, amazing people, stunning weather were the recipe for a successful week
And we also worked hard! Very hard!. Despite Prof Börger and Prof Street attempts nobody fell asleep…almost.

We received very positive feedbacks from all participants, which is very encouraging, and we are therefore keen to offer a similar, and even more exciting, course during the summer 2017! Stay tuned on this blog if you want to be part of the next MESS and learn everything about Apollo!


Movement Ecology Summer School 2015

On the basis of the success obtained in 2013, our group, and in collaboration with the Life Science Zurich Graduate School,  is proud to announce the upcoming Movement Ecology Summer School 2015  that will be held in Faido, in the heart of the Swiss Alps (August 23–28 2015). We already secured the contribution of leading scientist: Prof. Luca Börger, Prof. John Fieberg, Dr. Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, Dr. Frank Pennekamp, Dr. Gabriele Cozzi.

PhD students from UZH and ETHZ will have priority, but few places shall be available for external participants too.

This one-week course covers several aspects of animal movement ecology and includes both theoretical/conceptual and practical sessions.

The course builds on analytical complexity and leads the participant through several steps. During day one, the participants will learn to source landscape information through available remote sensing imagery and to import, manipulate and represent geographical data into R. Day two will be dedicated to the decomposition of movement trajectories and characterisation of movement modes and phases. During day three the participants will be exposed to common methods used in the calculation of home ranges and discuss the pros and cons. During the next day we will use presence/absence data to analyze habitat selection and create species distribution models. Finally, during the last day, the participants will be exposed to some new tools and methodologies to include data from alternative sensors (e.g. accelerometers) in the study of animal movements. Fundamental aspects such as study design, spatial autocorrelation, sources of error and time varying covariates will be discussed.

Data sets will be provided but the participants are encouraged to bring their own data. Basic knowledge in R is required. Participants should bring their own laptop with the latest version of R installed. Active participation during the course is required to obtain the credit points.

Turkish Bears and the Mc’Donald’s effect

…The bears living in the Sarikamis Forest National Park belong to an isolated and relict population not connected to any other larger and viable bear populations…”. This is what we believed two years ago, at the beginning of the project. And we were wrong!

Now, after two years of continuos data collection from 16 GPS radio-collared bears, we are slowly starting to understand their local and regional movement patterns their ecology and social organisation.

Together with our collaborators of the turkish-based NGO Kuzei Doga, the University of Utah, and the University of Zagreb we discovered that our study bears are capable of long-distance movements of more than 100 km. And this across an allegedly hostile and human-dominated landscape. These long distance trips thus allow the bears to reach a larger bear population that lives along the Black Sea coast and across Georgia.

Interestingly, only half of the collared bears undertook these long-distance movements. The other bears never left the surrounding of the Sarikamis forest, instead they regularly visited the Sarikamis city garbage dump.

We were so able to characterise two distinct behavioural morphs: (i) ‘dump bears’ who never left the Sarikamis forest and fed at the city dump, and (ii) ‘wild bears’  who never visited the dump and regularly migrated. As the observed migratory trips happened right before hibernation, we speculate that they are linked to fattening before the winter. This idea is corroborated by the fact that dump bears also increased their visit rate at the dump right before hibernation.

Future work will allow us to tell which of the two strategies is the most adaptive: McDonald fast food or bio-products?

For the time-being we are happy to have made it to the public media.