Stochastic modelling of animal movement

Peter E. Smouse, Stefano Focardi, Paul R. Moorcroft, John G. Kie, James D. Forester, Juan M. Morales

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


Modern animal movement modelling derives from two traditions. Lagrangian models, based on random walk behaviour, are useful for multi-step trajectories of single animals. Continuous Eulerian models describe expected behaviour, averaged over stochastic realizations, and are usefully applied to ensembles of individuals. We illustrate three modern research arenas, (i) Models of homerange formation describe the process of an animal 'settling down', accomplished by including one or more focal points that attract the animal's movements, (ii) Memory-based models are used to predict how accumulated experience translates into biased movement choices, employing reinforced random walk behaviour, with previous visitation increasing or decreasing the probability of repetition, (iii) Levy movement involves a step-length distribution that is over-dispersed, relative to standard probability distributions, and adaptive in exploring new environments or searching for rare targets. Each of these modelling arenas implies more detail in the movement pattern than general models of movement can accommodate, but realistic empiric evaluation of their predictions requires dense locational data, both in time and space, only available with modern GPS telemetry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2201-2211
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1550
StatePublished - Jul 27 2010


  • Eulerian models
  • Home range
  • Lagrangian models
  • Levy
  • Memory
  • Stochastic movement modelling


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