The Minerva Center for Movement Ecology (hereafter, the center), established in early 2012, aims to advance groundbreaking integrative research on the movement of organisms. The center is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of leading researchers with diverse backgrounds and complementary expertise. Our goal is to elucidate the links between movement patterns and their underlying processes; namely, the fitness consequences of lifetime movement, the secrets of animal navigation, and the drivers of inter-continental bird migration.
The center is expected to contribute significantly to a greater understanding of movement across all taxonomic groups to address four challenging issues regarding the movement of organisms: (1) the links between movement patterns (such as those that fit different random walk models) and their underlying mechanisms (e.g., search efficiency and landscape heterogeneity); (2) the fitness consequences of lifetime movement; (3) the mechanisms of animal navigation; and (4) the drivers of inter-continental bird migration. We expect our findings to have major implications in both basic and applied research, and we foresee a substantial impact beyond our field of research through public environmental awareness and education.
Members of the center are established scientists who carry out advanced movement research projects with the help of substantial support from their institutions and/or leading funding agencies. Therefore, rather than providing direct support to specific movement ecology studies, the center will advance this field of research by helping to advance these fields of research in three general ways: (a) training and promoting young scientists studying movement ecology (through fellowships, excellence prizes, and summer school); (b) promoting scientific networks and transdisciplinary projects on this subject (workshops, international conferences, visits to laboratories in Germany and Israel), and (c) facilitating research for established groups by developing and sharing innovative research tools that have general utility (a dedicated program manager, small research grants for field studies in the Hula Field Research Center, and the Movebank global movement database).
One of the center’s main objectives is to establish a new academic field research station in the Hula Valley in northern Israel. This area is arguably the most attractive site in Israel for studying the movement of many local vertebrate and invertebrate species and one of the most globally important hotspots of bird migration. In addition to logistics facilities, we have already established an automatic tracking system for high-resolution recording of the movements of many individuals of many species, ATLAS. This system facilitates data acquisition of various movement studies and is generating large datasets. To encourage research in this facility, we shall offer small research grants for joint work between German and Israeli partners, giving preference to young scientists (faculty tenure-track position) at the start of their academic careers or young researchers studying in established groups of the center. Recipients of these grants will be required to supplement equal matching for the received grants from their own resources to facilitate this project and must present the results at center meetings. We are presently working to establish this station, and continue to hold workshops to further the process at Kfar-Blum Pastoral Hotel in the Hula Valley (see past activities).
The center operates as a single unit overseen by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ). The center’s funds are distributed solely for movement ecology research and related activities based on the judgment and discretion of the PI (Nathan) and the co-PI (Klafter) and according to the guidelines and approval procedures of Minerva Centers. Decisions on planned activities are made jointly by the PI and the co-PI, who may occasionally seek advice from other members or non-affiliated colleagues, and are supervised by an advisory board appointed by the Minerva Foundation. Ad-hoc committees of several center members will be established to facilitate decision-making (e.g., prizes) or administration (e.g., meetings). All of the center’s administrative activities are handled by Mrs. Sarit Levi.