Tal Avgar

Assistant Professor of Movement Ecology

Pronouns: he/him/his

pronghorn jumping over a fence

I am a movement ecologist. My research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary causes and consequences of animal movement behaviour.

Animal movement has fascinated humankind since the dawn of history, but only recently have we begun to truly elucidate the different drivers that underlie movement phenomena such as migration, natal dispersal, home ranging, and nomadism.

Within the limitations of their cognitive and physical capacities, animals move to enhance their fitness; animals move to thermoregulate, to find water, food, and mates, or to avoid predators, competitors, or parasites. The relative importance of these different drivers is however species, system, and context specific, and is often poorly understood. This ignorance is debilitating because animal movement is a critical component of many ecological processes and applied challenges, including trophic interactions, metapopulation dynamics, disease transmission, range expansions, and human-wildlife conflicts.

Ultimately, movement behaviours of individuals translate into the fundamental elements of population dynamics: spatiotemporal patterns of emigration and immigration, survival, and reproduction. The premise behind my research is that quantitative understanding of the processes underlying animal movement behaviours is essential, not only as means to identifying ecological needs and interactions at the individual level, but as a mechanistic key to emerging population and community patterns.

I believe that through a process-based approach we may be able reliably forecast such patterns outside of the observed envelope of ecological conditions and into a rapidly changing future. That said, I also recognize that it is often challenging to identify those processes that are both necessary and sufficient for predicting specific patterns, and that this process-based premise must be continuously evaluated against simpler alternatives. With these perspectives in mind, my research goal is to develop mechanistic understanding of the drivers of animal movement behaviour across ecological landscapes, and to use this understanding to interpret and predict spatiotemporal patterns of organismal abundance.