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Researchers Map Animal Behavior First, Human Next

Three university researchers have won a nearly $1 million grant to chart the group dynamics of zebras electronically in an effort better understand techniques for conservation and eventually to study human consumer behaviors as well.

"On an abstract level, the methodology is the same," according to University of Illinois assistant professor of computer science Tanya Berger-Wolf. "But I get much more excited when dealing with questions of conservation biology than marketing."  

Berger-Wolf will be joined by Princeton University ecologist Daniel Rubenstein and University of New Mexico computer scientist Jared Saia on the project.
The three researchers won a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant to create computational tools to provide a more dynamic picture of animal social interactions. Their initial focus is on zebras in Kenya's Mpala conservancy. Some of the animals will be fitted with GPS tracking collars that will provide a more accurate picture of  how animals interact and behave when predators are near.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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