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Our ability to study brain and behavior has long proceeded in lock-step with advances in technology. At the same time, understanding of neurobiological principles has continuously driven technological innovations, including serving as the inspiration for most of the major advances in artificial intelligence. Even so, engineered systems still struggle to achieve flexible behaviors that require interaction with the physics of the world. All animals excel at such sensorimotor behaviors within their natural contexts.
Explosive growth in the availability of animal movement tracking data is providing
unprecedented opportunities for investigating the linkages between behavior and
ecology over large spatial scales. Cognitive movement ecology brings together
aspects of animal cognition (perception, learning, and memory) to understand how
animals’ context and experience influence movement and space use, affording
insights into encounters, territoriality, migration, and biogeography, among many
Birds evolved about 150 million years ago, and today they are the most diverse and colorful land vertebrates. In my group, we are fascinated by the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive this variation. Much of our work investigates coloration and vision in birds. A fundamental challenge is that birds see differently from humans: they have tetrachromatic vision (four color cone-types) and ultraviolet sensitivity. To estimate a “bird’s-eye view,” we combine advanced imaging techniques with new computational methods.