Leveraging Partial Identity Information in Spatial Capture-Recapture Studies with Applications to Remote Camera and Genetic Capture-Recapture Surveys

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Virginia Tech


Noninvasive methods for monitoring wildlife species have revolutionized the way population parameters, such as population density and survival and recruitment rates, are estimated while accounting for imperfect detection using capture-recapture models. Reliable estimates of these parameters are vital information required for making sound conservation decisions; however to date, noninvasive sampling methods have been of limited use for a vast number of species which are difficult to identify to the individual level–a general requirement of capture-recapture models. Capture-recapture models that utilize partial identity information have only recently been introduced and have not been extended to most types of noninvasive sampling scenarios in a manner that uses the spatial location where noninvasive samples were collected to further inform complete identity (i.e. spatial partial identity models). Herein, I extend the recently introduced spatial partial identity models to the noninvasive methods of remote cameras for species that are difficult to identify from photographs and DNA from hair or scat samples. The ability of these novel models to improve parameter estimation and extend study design options are investigated and the methods are made accessible to applied ecologists via statistical software.

This research has the potential to greatly improve wildlife conservation decisions by improving our knowledge of parameters related to population structure and dynamics that inform those decisions. Unfortunately, many species of conservation concern (e.g., Florida panthers, Andean bears) are managed without having the necessary information on population status or trends, largely a result of the cost and difficulty of studying species in decline and because of the difficulty of applying statistical models to sparse data, which can produce imprecise and biased estimates of population parameters. By leveraging partial identity information in noninvasive samples, the models I developed will improve these parameter estimates and allow noninvasive methods to be used for more species, leading to more informed conservation decisions, and a more efficient allocation of conservation resources across species and populations.



Spatial capture-recapture, partial identity, unmarked spatial capture-recapture, microsatellites, genetic mark-recapture, camera trap