Professor Kate Jeffery
We believe that the work that Prof Kate Jeffery is doing at her laboratory at University College London is critical to the understanding of how the act of navigation works in the brain.
She is interested in how neurons in the brain encode complex space in the brain. Her work involves recording single neurons from the brain’s ‘navigation circuits’ in freely exploring rats and mice, to determine how the cells respond to spatial information. The hippocampal neurons (place cells) encode location in a complex, multidimensional space, head direction cells encode facing direction and entorhinal grid neurons mark out distances across the environment. The challenge now is to understand how information reaches these neurons from the sense organs.
Prof Thomas Alerstam
Prof Thomas Alerstam of Lund University has been a hero of mine since my first encounters with animal navigation. He has done fascinating work on birds breeding in the Arctic and their migratory habits. He has described the problems of this migratory navigation as the birds tend to leave for the annual autumn migration in dreadful conditions where it is overcast for weeks on end, including storms that blot out everything. The added difficulty is that at these high latitudes, the compass needle points vertically down. These observations have caused the creation of this website where we try to understand how these birds do in fact migrate.
Ingo Schiffer is one of the heroes as he is an unusual scientist working in the animal navigation field as he is interested in the basic issue of how animals navigate, As we have always felt, a number of factors are integrated by animals in order to find their way. When some of the inputs are missing the animals use others more. This is just like a human who loses one sense compensates with the others. If you lose your sight you usually hear better for instance.
In 2016 Ingo wrote a paper on how he thinks pigeons navigate using many inputs see his summary.
At the RIN 19 Animal Navigation Conference Ingo Schiffner, presented a paper: Experimental Systems Analysis – Understanding the factors that drive navigation in Homing Pigeons
Rupert Sheldrake is one or our super heroes. He has an impeccable scientific reputation but has always been pushing the boundaries and seeking for the truth. His recent book “The Science Delusion” attacks the unjustified dogmas of Science. He has also written several books which should be of interest to all visitors of this site: “Seven Experiments that Could Change the World”, “Dogs that know when their owners are coming home (and other unexplained powers of animals) and “The Sense of being Stared at”.
This site was set up specifically to try to find out and explain how animals navigate. It seems clear that this is not explained by classic science which is why Rupert Sheldrake’s work is so important in this context.
He is a Professor of Physics and the University of Oxford and has written a most interesting book “Decoding Reality – the universe as quantum information”. He describes the universe in terms of a quantum computer that stores all the information that has ever existed in the universe: the Universal Information Field. This concept of the Quantum Computer is quite accepted and efforts as now in hand to try to create one. The mathematics proving the existence, size and processing speed of this universal Quantum Computer is quite understood. Vedral calculates the number of information bits in the Universe and comes up with the stupendously large number (but not infinite) of 10100 bits of information with a processing speed of 1090 compared to your computer which processes 1010 bits per second, so he calculates that you would need to have 1080 computers to do the same job (10 followed by 80 zeros).
This description of a universal database running since the beginning of time enables us to understand how dowsing and other phenomena such as how birds navigate might work.
Wolfgang and Roswitho Wiltshko
Wolfgang and Roswitho Wiltshko are huge figures in animal navigation and are probably world experts on Pigeon Navigation. They were one of the foremost players in investigating Magnetic effects in bird navigation. They have helped many people to develop their theories. All in all their contribution to bird navigation is outstanding.
Please follow this link to see what they have been doing. The translation engine works really well.
In 2016 Ingo wrote a paper on how he thinks pigeons navigate using many inputs see his summary.
At the RIN 19 Animal Navigation Conference Ingo Schiffner presented a paper: Experimental Systems Analysis – Understanding the factors that drive navigation in Homing Pigeons
At RIN 11 David Keays, from the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, Austria, gave an astounding presentation on his recent work which is specifically focused on whether or not an iron-based magnetoreception exists in the subepidermal skin in the beak of the pigeon.
This was incredibly important as one of the key prevailing navigational theories is that pigeons navigate using magnetic receptors in their beaks. They found no evidence to support this proposition.
David Keays and his team sliced up a number of pigeons into tiny wafers and looked for magnetite nodules. They found them, not specifically in the beak, but throughout the animal and also in the feathers. This destroys “the magnet in nose theory”.
The Royal Institute of Navigation
The Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) is the world’s leading navigation organisation. Amongst their other navigational duties they have set up the Animal Navigation Group (ANG). The ANG is the key UK resource for all matters dealing with animal navigation.
RIN and ANG organise animal navigation conferences and their work and effort have made these conferences the most important meetings on animal navigation in the world. Each conference is attended by the leading experts in the field who like the focus of the event and the way that new ideas and theories can be aired and discussed in this forum. The first conference was held in 1989 (RIN89) and recently there was RIN13 – Bionav. Our editor Richard Nissen was invited to show a poster which lays out a completely new approach to animal navigation and especially bird navigation developed by Jim Lyons and helped by Simon Raggett. For further information please also see the handout.
If you are interested in Navigation and especially Animal Navigation you should join RIN.
The Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) is the world’s leading navigation organisation. Amongst their other navigational duties, they have set up the Animal Navigation Group (ANG). The ANG is the key UK resource for all matters dealing with animal navigation.
Tristan Gooley has worked harder than anyone on understanding and describing how natural navigation works. His book The Natural Navigator is the textbook on the subject and he gives inspiring courses – which I have attended. His enthusiasm and knowledge are legendary. He is particularly interested in showing people how they can navigate successfully without instruments.
See the Whale Mystery for his comments.
The Tuareg Trail by Tristan Gooley was published in the April/May 2010 issue of Navigation News with the kind permission of the editor and the author. A letter of his referring to nature’s radar in relation to Viking sunstones has just been published by the Economist. You can read it here:
Jim Lyons has spent a lifetime thinking about the deep meaning of the universe through his own scientific work in many fields and his passion for dowsing.
He has been helping me with developing this site and you will see his contributions to this work both under Dowsing and also in his recent paper.
Professor Anna Gagliardo. Department of Biology, University of Pisa. Italy. Olfactory navigation and familiar visual landmark-based. Anna Gagliardo’s 110 research works with 2813 citations and 11812 reads, including Unilateral hippocampal lesions and the navigational performance of homing pigeons as revealed by GPS-tracking.
Miriam Liedvogel is currently working at the CAnMove Centre, Department of Biology at Lund University. She has done extensive research and is a real expert on Animal Navigation, which is why she is one of our heroes.
She is currently researching finding markers to get a grip on understanding the underlying genetic architecture of migration.
Please see her latest research which covers the state-of-the-art of migration genetics in many taxa, not only birds – The genetics of migration on the move and here.
Peter Hore is a Professor at the Department of Chemistry at Oxford University he has been involved in the cryptochrome theory of magnetic sensibility in animals (birds and insects). This work has been in-built on very interesting first principles. At RIN11 he elucidated how cryptochromes can deliver directional information even in a disordered state. I think his work is groundbreaking and will be the basis of a new understanding of how animals navigate.
The Quantum Robin by Peter Hore was published in the Nov/Dec issue of Navigation News with the kind permission of the editor and the author.
Patrick Robinson works with the Center for Ocean Health at the University of California and has been researching and monitoring elephant seals for decades. At RIN 11 Patrick gave a presentation entitled Oceanic Navigation of Free-Ranging Elephant Seals.
Whilst the outbound track for these seals is random in search of food. When the seals feel it is time to return home they choose a perfect straight great circle route home. (A great circle route is the one that modern airliners use as this is the shortest distance between two points on the globe). This ability to take straight tracks is found in many marine animals such as dolphins and whales and I think salmon. Please note, that on nearing home these animals will be using different clues – salmon use olfactory clues (they smell the water near their home rivers) to home on their exact destination.
As Patrick says: “Regarding the elephant seal dataset… it’s obviously quite difficult to ‘prove’, but I am very confident that the seals always know where they are relative to their home colony. For example, they are very capable of orienting directly home after a circuitous track (even when this doesn’t involve following their outbound track).”
Patrick will be posting more on this subject soon. Please see the data he has shared with us.