• Kamil, Alan C (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Way-finding (or spatial navigation) is a vitally important behavior. Any disruption of way-finding mechanisms causes serious problems for many people. Although much is known about the mechanisms by which people and animals navigate through space, fundamental questions remain. Many of these questions concern how landmarks are used during way finding. In the research proposed here, a new approach emphasizing the use of absolute and relative directional information will be pursued with a particularly appropriate animal model, taking advantage of a natural system. This natural system involves an unusual degree of extremely precise spatial navigation using local landmarks. This research has the potential to yield important new information about the integration of different sources of spatial information that will be relevant to developing a better understanding of way finding at both the neural and behavioral levels. How animals find their way, how way finding is encoded, how it is represented and how it is remembered are puzzles still not thoroughly understood despite remarkable progress in the last 15 years. The proposed research is grounded in knowledge of the ecology and natural history of the subject species, Nucifraga columbiana, (Clark's nutcrackers). Individual nutcrackers face the problem in nature of relocating the many thousands of seeds they cache in the ground during the fall in many thousands of locations. The nutcrackers use this information to later return to these caches as their primary food source during winter and spring. The researchers intend to discover how nutcrackers integrate information from multiple landmarks, how such information is integrated with compass information, and how nutcrackers plan a route of visitation to a series of caches.
Effective start/end date8/1/007/31/06


  • National Institutes of Health: $252,076.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $320,433.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $256,069.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $254,541.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $255,815.00


  • Medicine(all)


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