Behavior is one of the main ways that animals interact with their environment, and to a large degree determines how they use resources and interact with other organisms. Due to its plasticity, behavior is also one of the most important mechanisms by which animals respond to environmental change. Through exploration and learning, animals are able to solve problems they have never or rarely experienced before. The environment also shapes behavior by selecting those behavioral types which work best. Even more intriguing, behavior can even influence the speed of evolution by exposing individuals to new selective pressures. Therefore, studying how animals behave and the decisions that they make is key for understanding wide-ranging aspects of their ecology and evolution. Despite this, our knowledge of how behavior can affect the ecology and evolution of animals is still insufficient. Understanding this role is fundamental for finding solutions which mitigate contemporary losses of biodiversity and associated ecosystems services as a result of human activities. 

The main lines of work and experience of CREAF in this field include:

  • We parameterize animal behavior: We quantify and model animal behavior using computational and analytical methods in order to quantify animal behavior. 
  • Movement ecology: We study how interactions between the surroundings (environmental  variables) and the internal state of animals (cognitive, physiological) modulate motor behavior and movement patterns. 
  • Stochasticity in behavior and searching strategies: We are interested in understanding if the sources of behavior and their variability (stochasticity) can eliminate cognitive biases or increase the success of exploration processes.
  • Habitat selection and population dynamics: We are interested in how the decisions of individuals about where they live and how they use resources affect the persistence and expansion of populations. 
  • Behavioral responses and environmental changes induced by human activity: We study how behavior makes animals more or less tolerant to alterations of their surroundings (including urbanization, habitat fragmentation, and the presence of humans).
  • Behavioral flexibility and speed of evolution: We study how behavioral changes affect the speed of evolutionary diversification.
  • Foraging behavior of pollinating insects: We study how the inclusion of different parameters related with the foraging behavior of pollinators affects the structure of pollination networks. 
  • Behavior of seed predators/dispersers: We study which behavioral factors are important for balancing predation and dispersion of plant seeds in rodents and granivorous insects. 
  • Human nutrient cycles and nutrition: We study nutritional behavior of the human population in terms of nutrients and their cycles.  
  • Genetics and behavior: We study how genetic differences on the individual level modulate behavior.

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