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"Social Networking Software Tracks Zebras and Consumers"
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) (09/06/07); Francuch, Paul
Computer scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the
University of New Mexico have developed computational tools that will
allow ecologists to closely monitor the social interactions of zebras.
The computational tools, which make use of research into social network
analysis, Internet computing, data mining, and machine learning, were
funded by a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Working
with Daniel Rubenstein, an ecologist at Princeton University, Tanya
Berger-Wolf and Jared Saia have developed GPS tracking collars for zebras
living in the Mpala conservancy in Kenya, which will enable researchers to
learn much more about life in the herd, including how zebras interact and
evade predators. The project will provide a more realistic and dynamic
look into the social habits of zebras, as data collected every eight to 15
minutes will be forwarded by cell phone to the researchers' computers.
The data will then be mapped and analyzed by new computational and
analytical software that was also developed by Berger-Wolf and Saia.
Such computational tools are needed because of how quickly zebras form
groups and then break up, says Berger-Wolf. The researcher's approach to
social networking also could be used to study consumers, disease, or the
formation of covert groups.
S.D. Clark Professor of Sociology, FRSC NetLab Director
Centre for Urban & Community Studies University of Toronto
455 Spadina Avenue Room 418 Toronto Canada M5S 2G8
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