Paging Agent Monkey

Applications of GIScience are widespread, this is in part due to the fact that every event or process, involving objects or beings has a spatial element in the storyline. Emergent Group Level Navigation: An Agent Based Evaluation of Movement Patterns in a Folivorous Primate (Bonnell et al., 2013) uses GIS to model the movements of primates will the goal of gaining a better understanding of their movement strategy as they forage for food. This is achieved by comparing 12 combinations of collective behaviour against observed moments tracked in the field. Therein demonstrating the power of GIS to not only represent reality, but also simulate it – and in this case bringing the two together.

While an innovative use of technology, I feel there is much more work to be done to further such research. As all models can be defined as ‘a [mere] substitute for a real system’ I’d be cautious in criticizing the small pool of strategy hypothesis presented as too simplistic. I applaud the researchers’ audacious attempt to model such a complex system, living creatures are wildly unpredictable. I would argue that modeling human movements and interactions would offer more insight as most of us carry tracking devices (smart phones) and so many of our transactions feeding or otherwise can be tracked electronically and spatially. The added benefit would be in that one could supplement the research by interviewing a sample of those tracked – we can’t quite talk to monkeys just yet.

I ask: “Why we need to understand monkey movements?” The paper does however point to how such a comprehension sheds light on the cognitive functions of the observed agents, telling us much about how their memory works. This alone leaves this project as one of the most creative uses of GIS. 10/10!

– Othello

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