In stage-based demography, animals are often categorized into size (or mass) classes, and size-based probabilities of surviving and changing mass classes must be estimated before demographic analyses can be conducted. In this paper, we develop two procedures for the estimation of mass transition probabilities from capture-recapture data. The first approach uses a multistate capture-recapture model that is parameterized directly with the transition probabilities of interest. Maximum likelihood estimates are then obtained numerically using program SURVIV. The second approach involves a modification of Pollock's robust design. Estimation proceeds by conditioning on animals caught in a particualr class at time i, and then using closed models to estimate the number of these that are alive in other classes at i + 1. Both methods are illustrated by application to meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus, capture-recapture data. The two methods produced reasonable estimates that were similar. Advantages of these two approaches include the directness of estimation, the absence of need for restrictive assumptions about the independence of survival and growth, the testability of assumptions, and the testability of related hypotheses of ecological interest (e.g., the hypothesis of temporal variation in transition probabilities).
Additional publication details
Estimating transition probabilities for stage-based population projection matrices using capture-recapture data