DEPARTMENT OF MATHEMATICAL AND STATISTICAL SCIENCES
UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA

PIMS-MITACS MATHEMATICAL BIOLOGY SEMINAR


MONDAY, March 14, 2005
3:00 - 4:00 p.m.
CAB 657

Dr. Erik Noonburg
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Alberta

Cervus elaphus, quo vadis? A game theoretic approach to modeling elk movement patterns in Yellowstone National Park

Foragers make movement decisions in the context of individual life histories and landscape processes, yet foraging theory often treats patch choice as an isolated event. The spatial and temporal scales at which these processes are integrated into decision-making by an individual forager is a key feature of movement models. Models that simulate landscape-scale movement typically start from the plausible assumption that an organism obtains information from a narrow perceptual radius. Although intuitive, this assumption does not address the degree to which natural selection has shaped the responses of foragers to environmental cues. I will present a model of elk winter movement behavior on the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park that simulates decision-making with global information about the environment. The model includes a detailed representation of the energetics of foraging and travel, as well as the seasonal dynamics of forage availability. I use game theoretic techniques to find the state-dependent evolutionary stable strategy for movement paths through the winter. The effects of state- and frequency-dependence are isolated by comparing the results of simpler models with different combinations of these two mechanisms. The results demonstrate that the interaction of state- and frequency-dependence produces a complex pattern of movement that is not captured by simpler optimal foraging models.