Integrative Biology 24, Section 4

Animal Navigation: Which Way is Home? (1 unit, LG)

Professor Roy Caldwell
Monday 2:00-3:00, 5192 VLSB, Class number: 25109

A homing pigeon can return to its loft after being shipped one thousand km to a place it has never been. A whale spends its summers in the Bering Sea and its winters near Maui. A female sea turtle returns for the first time to a beach where she hatched thirty years earlier to lay her own eggs. A Monarch butterfly flies south two thousand km to spend the winter in a secluded grove in central Mexico. A limpet returns forty cm to a favorite depression in a rock. The abilities of animals to navigate have intrigued biologists for decades. We will read a series of papers describing how animals navigate and how they use such methods as landmarks, celestial cues, and geomagnetic fields to determine where to go and what route to follow. We will also attempt to replicate experiments that suggest that humans are able to navigate using geomagnetic fields. This seminar is as much about the process of science as it is about animal navigation.  We will first explore examples of animal navigation and how the underlying mechanisms are being researched. We will then examine experiments that suggest a human navigation ability based on geomagnetic input, and finally we will design an experiment to test if humans have the ability to detect and/or use a geomagnetic sense as do many other animals. At the end of the semester each student will write a short scientific paper presenting the results of the class experiment. The seminar is designed for students interested in biological research. Registration for this seminar is limited to 15 students.

Instructor Bio

My research interests lie in invertebrate behavior and ecology with much of my work centering on the behavioral ecology of stomatopod crustaceans, a group of tropical marine predators. The initial focus of this research was on how the evolution of potentially lethal weapons influenced stomatopod biology. These studies dealt mainly with communication and the function of aggression. More recent research has expanded to include the evolution of mating systems, interspecific communication, sensory ecology, prey selection, and the biomechanics of the strike and larval biology. We are currently initiating studies on the genetic structure of stomatopod populations attempting to deduce the timing and pathways of dispersal. We have also used stomatopod populations as bio-indicators to assess the health of tropical coastal habitats. I have also become interested in the behavior of blue-ringed and other pygmy octopuses. We are currently studying the reproductive and aggressive behavior of several Indo-Pacific species. Much of my research is centered in the tropical Indo-Pacific including programs at Lizard Island, Moorea, and Indonesia.

Faculty web site:


The seminar is designed for students interested in biological research.