Robots for Understanding Natural Ecosystems
[RUNE Workshop]

May 17th, 2024

at ICRA 2024 Yokohama, Japan


Natural ecosystems are defined by complex webs of interactions between the flora, fauna, and non-organic elements of an environment.  The importance of modeling and understanding these entangled and dynamic interactions is increasing as anthroprogenic change threatens ecosystems across the globe. Marine, terrestrial, and aerial robotic platforms increasingly capable of safely navigating remote environments over extended periods provide opportunities to better and quickly study such ecosystems. These platforms leverage advances in field robotics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence, such as semantic mapping, reinforcement learning, and distributed or adaptive planning. With these, robots can be more than just mobile sensors collecting data for human analysis; they can actively and independently aid in exploration and understanding across a diverse range of ecosystems and synthesize complex high-level concepts into targeted and actionable plans for conservation and science.

This workshop brings together robotics researchers at the forefront of environmental sensing and exploration, animal monitoring, semantic modeling, and more to present a panoramic view of robotic advances in the pursuit of understanding natural ecosystems. We further invite researchers in ecology and related fields, who use or wish to use robotics, to attend and contribute their insights on the most critical challenges and opportunities for greater use of autonomous robots to solve these problems.




Kakani Katija

Principal Engineer, MBARI
Marine Robotics

Victoria Preston

Postdoctoral Researcher, Northeastern University
Marine Robotics

Christoffer Heckman

Associate Professor, UC Boulder
Terrestrial Field Robotics

François Pomerleau

Professor, Laval University
Terrestrial Field Robotics

Daniel Zitterbart

Associate Scientist, WHOI
Marine and Antarctic Ecology

Lauren Olinger

Postdoctoral Researcher, UVI
Marine/Coral Reef Ecology

Blair Costelloe

Postdoctoral Researcher, Max Planck Institute and University of Konstanz
Terrestial Wildlife Ecology

Peyman Moghadam

Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO
Terrestial Robotics



Stewart Jamieson

PhD Student, MIT-WHOI 

Levi "Veevee" Cai

PhD Student, MIT-WHOI

Seth McCammon

Assistant Scientist, WHOI

Philippe Giguère

Associate Professor, Laval University

Yogesh Girdhar

Associate Scientist, WHOI

 Cover photo credits, respectively: Daniel Zitterbart, Ian Usher, Austin Greene, Christoffer Heckman