Movebank: animal movement in space and time
Scientists around the world are examining the movement patterns of migratory species. Information about animal movement can tell researchers not only about the behavior of individual species, but also about how animals interact with the environment and respond to changes such as habitat destruction and climate change. However, comparing animal movement data, which is collected by many different research groups using a variety of methods—such as bird ringing, radio telemetry, and GPS tags—remains a challenge.
Movebank (www.movebank.org), an international online database for animal movement, was created to help researchers share and analyze their animal tracking data. One of the leaders of the Movebank project is Martin Wikelski, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell and a professor at the University of Konstanz. The project is funded by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, the German Science Foundation, and the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Several partnerships are creating new ways to use to Movebank. Working with Science Buddies, Movebank recently developed two high school level science fair project ideas that help students learn about wildlife conservation and relationships between weather and migration using Movebank. In cooperation with the University of Konstanz, the MoveVRE project is developing new analysis tools and a permanent long-term archive of animal tracking data. At Ohio State University, an upcoming project funded by NASA will research novel ways for Movebank users to link animal movement to land surface and weather data in order to investigate the effects of climate change on migration.
The Max Planck Institute for Ornithology is currently using Movebank to monitor the daily movements of several species of birds that migrate within Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Movebank allows the researchers to easily view, analyze, and share new movements each day. The Institute also uses Movebank to archive historical animal tracking data for many species, such as white storks.