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 web site where we try to understand how these birds do in fact migrate.
Ingo Schiffer is one of 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 the 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
Ingo Schiffner*1, D. Kishkinev, R. Holland
Our new project NavMap applies novel analytical techniques in combination with experimental manipulation of navigational factors to investigate the cues with which pigeons navigate. Past studies have produced conflicting reports on effects of individual experimental treatments when attempting to investigate specific sensory cues. If anything these past experiments already hint at a rather complex system involving multiple redundant cues. Recent developments in mathematical analysis of GPS tracks have not only provided direct evidence for this, but have also produced new methods, that allow us to take a direct look at the underlying mechanisms of the navigational process. NavMap aims to combine these new methods, with experimental treatments to investigate in detail the involvement of individual sensory modalities in the pigeon’s navigational process. Here we present a first look at the initial findings from a larger ongoing study that has a broad focus on investigating, the involvement compass, route and map information. In this presentation we are going to focus on the involvement of the sun compass, magnetic and olfactory map information and are going to look if we can find general evidence for the long held presumption that birds in different areas in the world, occupying fundamentally different visual environments are prone to use different strategies to home.
For us, this work begins to create an underlying mathematical basis for the ideas that all navigation requires as much information as possible, from as many resources as are available at the time. Besides, the information required for navigation changes over the course of the journey. Setting out in the right direction initially is wholly different from the information required nearing home.
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.
His web site is www.sheldrake.org
Please search Google under Rupert Sheldrake where you will finds a great deal of interesting and important information.
Find out about Vlatco Vedral by searching Google or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlatko_Vedral
He is 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 are 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 data base running since the beginning of time enables us to understand how dowsing and other phenomena such as how birds navigate might work. This is why he is a Hero.
Wolfgang and Roswitho Wiltshko
Wolfgang and Roswitho Wiltshko are huge figures in animal navigation and are probably the 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 out standing.
Please follow this link to see what they have been doing. The translation engine works really well.
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 magentoreceptor 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 but not specifically in the beak but throughout the animal and also in the feathers. This destroys “the magnet in nose theory”. http://www.imp.ac.at/research/david-keays/
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 www.rin.org.uk. You can then join the Animal Navigation Group.
Tristan Gooley has worked harder than anyone on understanding and describing how natural navigation works. His book The Natural Navigator is the text book on the subject and he gives inspiring courses – which I have attended. His enthusiasm and knowledge are legendary. He is particularly interesting on showing people how they can navigate successfully without instruments. http://www.naturalnavigator.com/tristan-gooley/
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 though his own scientific work in many fields and his passion for dowsing. See: http://www.knightsrose.com/html/jim_lyons.html
He has been helping me with developing this site and you will see his contributions to this work both under Dowsing and also his recent paper.
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.
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 from very interesting first principles. At RIN11 he elucidated how cryptochromes can deliver directional information even in a disordered sate. I think his work is ground breaking and will be the basis of new understanding on how animals navigate.
You can follow his research group at http://research.chem.ox.ac.uk/peter-hore.aspx
The Quantum Robin by Peter Hore was published in the Nov/Dec issue of Navigation News with kind permission of the editor and the author.
Patrick Robinson works with Center for Ocean Health at the University of California who have 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 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.