Bridging Brain and Behavior in the Americas

Organizer: Marcela Fernandez-Vargas and Floria Mora-Kepfer Uy

Over the years, integrative research and interdisciplinary work have led to greater innovation and discoveries in animal behavior. Research on the neural and molecular bases of behavior has expanded our understanding about how the brain produces complex behavior and ultimately, its function and evolution. At the same time, the intersection between mechanisms and behavior has raised awareness about the importance of studying well-characterized and natural animal behaviors. In North America, many researchers have been successful at combining disciplines and enriching their research programs. However, researchers in Central and South America experience more barriers, such as less resources and training opportunities. We are currently moving into exciting times in which the intersection between behavior, physiology and computer science with open-source software, codes and databases is providing more equitable resources. The objectives of this symposium are three-fold. First, we aim to promote and support integrative research in Latin America, especially the field of neural and molecular mechanisms underlying animal behavior in model and non-model species. Second, the research shared during this symposium will provide an opportunity to learn about novel and accessible behavioral paradigms, wet lab techniques and data analysis tools used by early to mid-career researchers developing research programs. Finally, this interaction among scientists will foster collaborations and exchange of ideas in an environment that is more equitable and fairer.

Speakers: Mattheus Macedo-Lima , Andrey Sequeira-Cordero, Patricia C. Lopes, Eliane Goncalves de Freitas, Melissa Coleman, Michele Johnson, Floria Mora-Kepfer Uy

Social competency: an integrative approach to understanding connections between social information, decision-making, and cognition

Organizers: Marcela Benítez and Elizabeth Hobson

Social species need to constantly make decisions about who to interact with and how to structure those interactions within the context of both short and long-term payoffs. Several decades of research on sociality and cognition in animals has started to determine the kinds of information different species perceive and how they use this information to make more optimal decisions about future interactions, which we refer to as “social competency”. However, many open questions remain: how do animals actually make decisions in a social context, what information do they use to make important social choices, and how “good” are these decisions in helping animals achieve their aims? In this symposium, we integrate these questions under the concept of social competency to highlight new work that detects the presence, use, and effectiveness of social decision-making. We bring together speakers using multiple perspectives and working with both empirical and computational approaches, to synthesize our current understanding of social cognition across species and to highlight new directions for research that may be possible due to novel perspectives on how to detect and quantify social competency in animals.

Speakers: Marcela Benitez, Elizabeth Hobson, Elizabeth Tibbetts, Vanessa Ferdinand, Adriana Maldonado-Chaparro, Alexandra Rosati, Annemarie van der Marel, Chelsea Cook, Dai Shizuka, Gabriel Ramos-Fernandez, Grace Smith-Vidaurre, Kelly J Wallace, Lauren Brent, Cesar Estien, Chelsea Carminito. Claire O'Connell, Juan Carlos Ordoñes Jimenez, Raven Hartman, Sanjay Prasher, Xavier Francis and Alexander Fuentes

Bioacoustics in tropical forests

Organizers: Hoover Pantoja-Sánchez and Laurel Symes

Tropical forests are fantastically diverse and notoriously difficult to study. With dense vegetation and high canopies, animal behavior is difficult to observe and study. Although the animals are often difficult to see, many of them produce acoustic signals and cues that are used to interact with each other and to navigate the surrounding environment. Sounds produced by animals have therefore been rich sources of information about animal behavior, ecological interactions between species, and conservation challenges. In this context, bioacoustics and ecoacoustics are powerful disciplines to address relevant questions regarding animal behavior in tropical forests. Novel machine learning approaches and the emergence of small, low-cost, power-efficient and open-source acoustic sensors have allowed the scientific community to perform a variety of experiments that are expanding the limit of what can be done. This symposium: “Bioacoustics in tropical forests”, will gather researchers from around the world to share their experiences with the use of acoustics to investigate the behavior of insects, amphibians, mammals, and birds. In addition, we will highlight the relevance of wildlife sound archives and show examples of machine learning techniques that provide scientists with tools to explore innovative research questions. By attending the symposium, the audience will gain an overview of how acoustic approaches allow researchers to investigate a dense region of the forest that otherwise is difficult to access. Finally, this symposium will present an opportunity to discuss techniques that are being used to study tropical forests and to generate networks that will promote research in this field.

Speakers: Laurel B. Symes, Angela Mendoza-Henao, Daniela Martínez-Medina, Larissa S. Moreira Sugai, Dena J. Clink, Wendy Erb, Mónica Retamosa-Izaguirre. Alvaro Vega and Hoover Pantoja-Sánchez

Detailed observations of behavior for generating questions and answering them – a tribute to William Eberhard and Mary Jane West-Eberhard

Organizers: Fernando Soley and Rafael Rodríguez

The modern trend for doing research emphasizes quick experiments in known study systems that can be published in ‘high-impacting’ journals. This approach is encouraged by short-term granting systems intended to ‘maximize’ output through journal metrics. A collateral but important consequence is decreasing interest in natural history and detailed descriptions of behavior. Descriptive science is currently undermined, even though it forms a crucial component of the scientific process, both for generating questions and for testing hypotheses.

A lack of understanding of the animal itself can lead to poor experimental designs or misinterpretation of the results. This approach may also be more susceptible to unintended researcher bias, particularly ‘cherry-picking’. Most importantly, not strengthening these abilities in students can severely impair their curiosity and capacity to come up with original questions or discover new study organisms. Today, it seems especially relevant to reinstate the value of descriptive science and attention to detail.

Two scientists that have promoted curiosity-driven science, and have proven the value of descriptions through their distinguished academic achievements are William Eberhard and Mary Jane West-Eberhard. The ABS meeting in Costa Rica provides a special opportunity to honor the Eberhard’s lifelong contributions to tropical research, and their dedication to forming local scientists (particularly in Animal Behavior). We wish to honor their commitment and passion to the entire scientific process, by hosting accomplished academics that have also followed this approach, and ask them to explain its value. The objectives are to inspire younger scientists and to rescue this crucial component of science.

Speakers: Raghavendra Gadagkar, William Wcislo, Alejandro Farji-Brener, Anita Aisenberg, Marlene Zuk, Flavia Barbosa and Ximena Miranda

Past-Presidential Symposium - Visual Ecology and Behavior: future research challenges and opportunities

Organizer: Esteban Fernandez-Juricic, ABS Immediate Past-President

This symposium will be a virtual presentation after the in-person conference and will take place on Friday, July 29th. The presentations will be streamed and the presenters will be available for a live Q&A once the presentations finish.

Allee Symposium for Best Student Paper

Organizer: Vanessa Ezenwa, ABS Second President-Elect

This symposium features outstanding graduate student research, with an award for the best paper, and is a highlight of ABS meetings. The session honors Dr. Warder Clyde Allee (1885–1955), an animal behavior researcher who was very influential in the development and direction of animal behavior research in the 20th century. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1951 and ranks among the leading twentieth century ecologists, especially for his work in behavioral and animal ecology. In the 2022 ABS Allee Session, students will present their research to ABS members and talk judges.