Learning from animals: Jacobs alumna talks at TEDxWarsaw

Article from Jacobs University.


Can animals change the way we think? Can we learn anything from invasive species? How do we measure animal behavior in the wild? Jacobs alumna Dr. Joanna Bagniewska (Class of 2006) ventured to answer these questions at the recent TEDxWarsaw in March.

Joanna’s talk entitled “Learning the ways of the animals” was given at the independently organized TED event in Warsaw on March 21. She spoke about invasive species: plants and animals brought outside of their native range that have had huge environmental, agricultural, and financial impacts on their new surroundings.

Although the war against biological invasives is costly (in Europe estimated at €12 billion per year), Joanna pointed out a silver lining. Like any powerful enemy, the adaptable and resilient invasive species challenge us to change our thinking; they push us to develop new methods of “espionage”. She said: “To match our invaders’ versatility, we need to come up with novel technologies and new analytical techniques for measuring their behavior in the wild.”

Joanna’s work on the invasive American mink in Europe helped her develop methodologies (based on miniaturized logging devices) that can be applied to a diversity of semi-aquatic animals. Such methods are not only crucial for learning more about minks themselves. They are important because animals dependent on or adapted to living in water can be found across most groups of mammals – and while some are invasive and may cause a serious threat to biodiversity, others are endangered.

Yet, before any eradication or conservation action is undertaken, there is a pressing need to find out as much as possible about the behavior and ecology of a particular species, she told the audience. In turn methods developed for an invasive could also be applied in order to save an endangered animal. Despite invasives often posing a danger to local species they can definitely contribute a lot to our knowledge and understanding of different branches of science.

Joanna graduated from Jacobs University with a BSc in Biology; she later finished her MSc and DPhil at Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. Her doctoral thesis focused on using novel biotelemetric methods to investigate the behavioral patterns of free-living semi-aquatic animals. Her research interests include wildlife conservation, behavioral ecology, and the use of technological solutions in biology.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a global set of conferences formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.”
For more photos of Joanna talking at the TEDxWarsaw event, please see her website.

Author: Jacobs University

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