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Chilvers B.L.,Marine Conservation Group | Wilkinson I.S.,Marine Conservation Group | Mackenzie D.I.,Proteus Wildlife Research Consultants
Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics

The trade-off between survival and reproduction by individuals is central to understanding life-history parameters of a species. Few mammal species have life-history information from long-term research. Instead, demographic models are commonly utilized to investigate an individual's life-history strategy, species dynamics, and population trends. This research investigates age-related survival and reproductive performance of adult female New Zealand (NZ) sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri), using multi-state mark-recapture data from known-age branded individuals over five years. The mark-recapture analysis was integrated with a population model to predict the lifetime reproductive output of female NZ sea lions. The integration of an analysis of short-term datasets with population modeling allows for the prediction of life-history parameters of long lived animals when long-term information is not available. While such approaches involve some caveats, it provides a framework for investigating population dynamics and is preferential to unsubstantiated assumptions. This technique can lead to better design and implementation of conservation management for long lived species. © 2009 International Biometric Society. Source

McClintock B.T.,U.S. Geological Survey | Nichols J.D.,U.S. Geological Survey | Bailey L.L.,Colorado State University | MacKenzie D.I.,Proteus Wildlife Research Consultants | And 2 more authors.
Ecology Letters

Analytical methods accounting for imperfect detection are often used to facilitate reliable inference in population and community ecology. We contend that similar approaches are needed in disease ecology because these complicated systems are inherently difficult to observe without error. For example, wildlife disease studies often designate individuals, populations, or spatial units to states (e.g., susceptible, infected, post-infected), but the uncertainty associated with these state assignments remains largely ignored or unaccounted for. We demonstrate how recent developments incorporating observation error through repeated sampling extend quite naturally to hierarchical spatial models of disease effects, prevalence, and dynamics in natural systems. A highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza virus in migratory waterfowl and a pathogenic fungus recently implicated in the global loss of amphibian biodiversity are used as motivating examples. Both show that relatively simple modifications to study designs can greatly improve our understanding of complex spatio-temporal disease dynamics by rigorously accounting for uncertainty at each level of the hierarchy. Published 2010. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. Source

Guillera-Arroita G.,University of Melbourne | Lahoz-Monfort J.J.,University of Melbourne | MacKenzie D.I.,Proteus Wildlife Research Consultants | Wintle B.A.,University of Melbourne | McCarthy M.A.,University of Melbourne

In a recent paper, Welsh, Lindenmayer and Donnelly (WLD) question the usefulness of models that estimate species occupancy while accounting for detectability. WLD claim that these models are difficult to fit and argue that disregarding detectability can be better than trying to adjust for it. We think that this conclusion and subsequent recommendations are not well founded and may negatively impact the quality of statistical inference in ecology and related management decisions. Here we respond to WLD's claims, evaluating in detail their arguments, using simulations and/or theory to support our points. In particular, WLD argue that both disregarding and accounting for imperfect detection lead to the same estimator performance regardless of sample size when detectability is a function of abundance. We show that this, the key result of their paper, only holds for cases of extreme heterogeneity like the single scenario they considered. Our results illustrate the dangers of disregarding imperfect detection. When ignored, occupancy and detection are confounded: the same naïve occupancy estimates can be obtained for very different true levels of occupancy so the size of the bias is unknowable. Hierarchical occupancy models separate occupancy and detection, and imprecise estimates simply indicate that more data are required for robust inference about the system in question. As for any statistical method, when underlying assumptions of simple hierarchical models are violated, their reliability is reduced. Resorting in those instances where hierarchical occupancy models do no perform well to the naïve occupancy estimator does not provide a satisfactory solution. The aim should instead be to achieve better estimation, by minimizing the effect of these issues during design, data collection and analysis, ensuring that the right amount of data is collected and model assumptions are met, considering model extensions where appropriate. © 2014 Guillera-Arroita et al. Source

Watts C.,Landcare Research | Thornburrow D.,Landcare Research | MacKenzie D.,Proteus Wildlife Research Consultants
Journal of Insect Conservation

Appropriate monitoring tools are essential for assessing the effectiveness of management for all threatened insect taxa. In New Zealand the large-bodied flightless orthopterans in the genus Deinacrida have mostly been monitored by searching through habitat during the day or spotlighting at night but this is time consuming and the results depend on the skill of the searcher. Recently, footprint tracking tunnels, similar to those used for monitoring small mammals in New Zealand, were found to be effective for detecting adults of various giant weta species. In this study, we compared the abundance of Cook Strait giant weta (CSGW) in the vicinity of the tunnels, estimated by mark-recapture, with the number of tracking tunnels tracked by weta. We found strong indications that both baited and unbaited tracking tunnels can be used to estimate the number of adult weta present but that this probably depends on their responses to meteorological conditions which are not yet understood. Our results also show that footprint tracking tunnels are more effective for detecting adult CSGW than searching for these insects at night and that baiting tracking tunnels with peanut butter increases their effectiveness for detecting adult CSGW. We confirmed how far Cook Strait giant weta moved each night on Matiu-Somes Island by attaching transmitters to them and found that day roosts of three adult males were on average 8.6 m apart each day and those of adult females were on average 21.3 m apart. Both the low recapture rates of marked adult CSGW and the nightly displacements of those with transmitters suggest that adult CSGW show no site fidelity and are clearly capable of moving large distances each night. However, an individual weta is unlikely to track more than one tunnel per night if tunnels are 30 m apart. Tracking tunnels have the potential to be used with some other insects, provided their footprints are diagnostic. An advantage of using tracking tunnels is that they are non-lethal and would therefore be particularly suitable for monitoring other large threatened insect taxa. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Source

MacLeod C.J.,Landcare Research | MacKenzie D.I.,Proteus Wildlife Research Consultants | Allen R.B.,Landcare Research
New Zealand Journal of Ecology

Robust monitoring systems are required to improve the ecological outcomes of management actions aimed at preventing biodiversity loss. We present a pilot study that measured assemblages of widespread and common bird species at the national scale in New Zealand. Bird surveys were undertaken at 18 sampling locations (six per land cover class: forest, shrubland and non-woody) randomly selected from a national grid. The full sampling protocol (five count stations surveyed on each of two consecutive days) was implemented at 80% of sampling locations. Each survey consisted of a ten-minute bird count, with distance sampling carried out in the initial 5-min period and any new species recorded in the second 5-min period. Most observations were based on aural cues (particularly in forest and shrubland). On average, one additional species was recorded per sampling location in ten- versus five-minute counts. Analyses highlighted spatial heterogeneity as a major factor influencing detection probabilities both for species present and for individuals of those species at sampling locations. This issue is often overlooked when estimating bird population trends through time. Most endemic species were detected in forest, while native and introduced species were most frequently detected in shrub. Potential uses of the information collected, along with recommendations for improving the sampling protocols, are highlighted. © New Zealand Ecological Society. Source

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