Social Science Perspectives on Animal Migration and Navigation

Project team

Dr. Cormac Walsh


Head of Chair

Prof. Dr. Bernd Siebenhüner


Birgit Schelenz

+49 441 798-4384

Social Science Perspectives on Animal Migration and Navigation

Object of Research

The phenomenon of animal migration (including birds, bats, insects, marine mammals) continues to confound our common sense understanding of the world. Although knowledge of key mechanisms of migration and navigation has progressed significantly in recent decades there is still much that we do not know.

Why for example, do birds undertake hazardous journeys from one side of the world to the other, and how do they find their way back to their exact place of departure? How is animal migration impacted by anthropogenic climate change and habitat degradation? How can we better protect migratory species? This project examines animal migration from a social science perspective, developing and integrating insights from human geography, ecological economics, governance theory and related fields to better understand current, past and future patterns of animal migration within the context of a rapidly changing world.

This project builds on substantive interdisciplinary collaboration, building on the natural science expertise in the field of bird, bat and marine mammal navigation found at the University of Oldenburg and associated research institutes.

A specific research focus concerns the analysis of the influence of artificial light at night (ALAN) on bird and bat navigation in the Greater North Sea. Here we aim to assess the likely cumulative effects of planned offshore activities and identify options of evidence-informed ecosystem-based marine conservation within an anticipatory governance framework. In parallel, we seek to advance understanding of current practices of transboundary governance for migratory species, with a specific focus on critical wetland sites along the East Atlantic Flyway.


The project draws on a variety of methods, including cross-disciplinary literature review (comparing social and natural science theories of migration), interpretative policy analysis and empirical case study analysis. The project aims to build a foundation for social science and interdisciplinary research in this field, conducting pilot studies and identifying and exploring avenues for further research.

Project Duration

01.10/2023 – 31.03/2027


This project is funded via the Strengthening Excellence initiative of the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture.

This project is conducted in collaboration with university partners (Institute for Biology and Environmental Sciences) and external research partners (Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity and Institute for Avian Research, Wilhelmshaven).

(Changed: 23 Jan 2024)  | 
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