Yossi Yovel

2021 Israel Award Winner — Faculty

Yossi Yovel

Current Position:
Associate Professor of Zoology

Tel Aviv University

Ecology & Evolutionary Microbiology

Recognized for: Profound contributions to the emerging field of neuroecology, the study of how the brain controls behavior in a changing environment. Surprisingly, bats are an excellent animal in which to study such behavioral responses. He has developed novel miniaturized devices which monitor the behaviors of freely moving bats in the wild. This work provides broader insight into group behaviors, integration of sensory information in the brain, and real-time decision making. He has made his technology freely available—it is used in field work internationally and has the potential to aid in engineering acoustic control of autonomous vehicles.

Yossi Yovel

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Neuroscience, Ecology, Neuroecology, Bats, Navigation, GPS, Animal Behavior

Previous Positions:

BSc, Tel-Aviv University
MSc, Tel-Aviv University
PhD, University of Tuebingen and Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
Postdoctoral Fellow, Weizmann Institute of Science
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Chicago

Research Summary:

Yossi Yovel, PhD, seeks to further our understanding of animal behavior by bridging the gap between two of the most influential fields in biology—ecology, the study of animals in their environment, and neuroscience, the study of how the brain controls actions—by merging them into the new field of neuroecology. By advancing methodologies in neuroecology, Yovel has been able to answer many open questions about behavior, furthering our understanding of sensory processing in the brain, foraging behaviors, social communication, and spatial cognition.

He is a leading expert on the use of bats in scientific research and studies their use of echolocation to perceive and navigate through the world as a model for how the brain integrates sensory information to guide behavior. To monitor bats in the wild, he has developed miniaturized technology—the smallest in the world—capable of simultaneously detecting location, ultrasonic sounds, movement, heart rate, brain waves, and body temperature changes. By attaching these small sensors to many individual bats, Yovel is able to monitor each of these features in large groups of free-flying bats—a task which would be almost impossible in other mammals. In a breakthrough study, Yovel revealed that bats focus their acoustic beam on the edges of a target, rather than the center, to maximize the signal to noise ratio and allow for highly efficient detection. Yovel has also achieved the milestone of tracking bat pups from birth until adulthood—the first time a mammal has been tracked from birth. His truly interdisciplinary work has far reaching implications, including the potential for engineering acoustic control of autonomous vehicles.

"When the border between facts and fake is fine, science should delineate it."

Key Publications:

  1. L. Harten, A. Katz, A. Goldshtein, M. Handel, Y. Yovel. The Ontogeny of a Mammalian Cognitive Map in the Real World. Science, 2020.

  2. Y. Assaf, A. Bouznach, O. Zomet, A. Marom, Y. Yovel. Conservation of Brain Connectivity and Wiring Across the Mammalian Class. Nature Neuroscience, 2020.

  3. O. Kolodny, M. Weinberg, L. Reshef, L. Harten, A. Hefetz, U. Gophna, M.W. Feldman, Y. Yovel. Coordinated Change at the Colony Level in Fruit Bat Fur Microbiomes Through Time. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2019.

  4. S. Danilovich, Y. Yovel. Integrating Vision and Echolocation for Navigation and Perception in Bats. Science Advances, 2019.

Other Honors:

2020Humboldt Research Fellowship, Humboldt Foundation
2019Elected Member, Israel Young Academy of Sciences
2016Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research, The Wolf Foundation
2012The Alon Scholarship, Israeli Council for Higher Education
2011The Sieratzki Prize in Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University
2009The Reinhold and Maria Teufel Foundation Prize, University of Tuebingen
2005Marie Curie Fellowship, University of Tuebingen


In the Media:

Phys.org Why bats fly into walls

Medical News Today Human brain is not more efficient than other mammals' brains

The Jerusalem Post My Word: Going batty in times of corona and politicking

ISRAEL21c Tel Aviv skyscrapers help bats navigate

Scientific American How Human Brains Are Different: It Has a Lot to Do with the Connections

National Geographic This bat tunes into raucous frog serenades to locate dinner

The Atlantic Plants Can Hear Animals Using Their Flowers

PBS NOVA Wonders What Are Animals Saying?

New Scientist Watch this bat-inspired robot use sound to navigate and spot plants

The New York Times Teaching Bats to Say ‘Move Out of My Way’ in Many Dialects

The Guardian – Revealing bat “language” using Machine learning