Sims Lab

The movement of organisms is a fundamental feature of life that is central to almost all ecological and evolutionary processes. It affects survival and reproductive success, and influences the structuring of populations, communities and ecosystems. However, we lack a basic understanding of the mechanisms underlying when, how and why organisms move and disperse in natural habitats.

The research of the Sims Lab is focused on the ecology of animal movement and the underlying behavioural mechanisms. Our research addresses three broad questions: How do organisms move and disperse? (that is, the movement pattern adopted) Why are organisms found where they are? What determines organismal distributions?

We use fish and other marine taxa as models to explore ideas about the behavioural tactics used by free-ranging animals, for example, when searching, foraging, selecting habitat or migrating. Some key questions currently being addressed are: How do animals structure movement? Are there predictable ‘rules’? Do movement patterns change across scales? What processes underlie the observed patterns? How do spatial re-distribution patterns of free-ranging organisms alter with environmental changes?

In addition to providing fundamental insights into the behavioural ecology of wild animals our research contributes to strategic objectives, for example in species conservation and the effects of climate change and fishing on marine populations.

Our main approach is to track individual marine predators using advanced telemetry (biologging) techniques, such as satellite-linked archival tags and radio-linked acoustic positioning systems. We integrate this spatial movement data with environmental fields (e.g. in situ sampling, remote sensing) and with statistical analysis and computer simulations we test behavioural models to explore animal motivations.

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All images are copyrighted © to David Sims, the MBA and Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch.