Environmental Fluid Mechanics

, Volume 2, Issue 1–2, pp 65–94 | Cite as

A Multidisciplinary Study of Spatial and Temporal Scales Containing Information in Turbulent Chemical Plume Tracking

  • M.J. Weissburg
  • D.B. Dusenbery
  • H. Ishida
  • J. Janata
  • T. Keller
  • P.J.W. Roberts
  • D.R. Webster


This report describes the results of a multidisciplinary study of turbulent chemical plume tracking of blue crabs and autonomous agents. The study consists of a coordinated investigation of animal behavior, fluid mechanics, strategy simulations, and chemical sensing. The objective is to provide a comprehensive understanding of chemical plume tracking in a single biological system and to prescribe strategies that are effective for autonomous agents. The consensus of the study is that spatial variation in the plume, measured by sampling at multiple locations simultaneously, yields information that is useful for plume tracking. Behavioral investigations reveal that blue crabs demonstrate the ability to detect the chemical plume and use lateral movements to avoid losing contact with the odor. Blue crabs move rapidly towards the source, strongly suggesting that temporal comparisons of odor properties are not employed during navigation. Analysis of the concentration fields reveals that a spatial correlation between spanwise-separated sensors indicates the relative direction of the plume centerline over short time periods provided the sensor spacing is scaled appropriately relative to the plume. Similarly, simulations of tracking strategies reveal an optimal separation for the sensors at a distance roughly equal to the plume width; both smaller and larger sensor spans degrade tracking performance. The simulations further reveal an optimal sensor size above which the fine details of the concentration distribution are obscured and below which there is insufficient contact with the odor to enable effective navigation. Finally, analysis of the chemical signal shows that the frequency dependent correlation function between two (or more) sensors indicates the relative position of the source.


Tracking Performance Autonomous Agent Blue Crab Dependent Correlation Temporal Comparison 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • M.J. Weissburg
    • 1
  • D.B. Dusenbery
    • 1
  • H. Ishida
    • 2
  • J. Janata
    • 3
  • T. Keller
    • 1
  • P.J.W. Roberts
    • 4
    • 5
  • D.R. Webster
    • 5
  1. 1.School of BiologyTokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Physical ElectronicsTokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan
  3. 3.School of Chemistry and BiochemistryGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaU.S.A
  4. 4.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUSA
  5. 5.Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaU.S.A

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