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Recent advances in technology and quantitative methods have led to the emergence of a new field of study that stands to link insights of researchers from two closely related, but often disconnected disciplines: movement ecology and collective animal behaviour. To date, the field of movement ecology has focused on elucidating the internal and external drivers of animal movement and the influence of movement on broader ecological processes. Typically, tracking and/or remote sensing technology is employed to study individual animals in natural conditions. By contrast, the field of collective behaviour has quantified the significant role social interactions play in the decision-making of animals within groups and, to date, has predominantly relied on controlled laboratory-based studies and theoretical models owing to the constraints of studying interacting animals in the field. This themed issue is intended to formalize the burgeoning field of collective movement ecology which integrates research from both movement ecology and collective behaviour. In this introductory paper, we set the stage for the issue by briefly examining the approaches and current status of research in these areas. Next, we outline the structure of the theme issue and describe the obstacles collective movement researchers face, from data acquisition in the field to analysis and problems of scale, and highlight the key contributions of the assembled papers. We finish by presenting research that links individual and broad-scale ecological and evolutionary processes to collective movement, and finally relate these concepts to emerging challenges for the management and conservation of animals on the move in a world that is increasingly impacted by human activity.This article is part of the theme issue 'Collective movement ecology'.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





collective behaviour, collective movement, conservation, ecology, management, movement ecology