Modeling individual animal histories with multistate capture–recapture models

Advances in Ecological Research
By: , and 



Many fields of science begin with a phase of exploration and description, followed by investigations of the processes that account for observed patterns. The science of ecology is no exception, and recent decades have seen a focus on understanding key processes underlying the dynamics of ecological systems. In population ecology, emphasis has shifted from the state variable of population size to the demographic processes responsible for changes in this state variable: birth, death, immigration, and emigration. In evolutionary ecology, some of these same demographic processes, rates of birth and death, are also the determinants of fitness. In animal population ecology, the estimation of state variables and their associated vital rates is especially problematic because of the difficulties in sampling such populations and detecting individual animals. Indeed, early capture–recapture models were developed for the purpose of estimating population size, given the reality that all animals are not caught or detected at any sampling occasion. More recently, capture–recapture models for open populations were developed to draw inferences about survival in the face of these same sampling problems. The focus of this paper is on multi‐state mark–recapture models (MSMR), which first appeared in the 1970s but have undergone substantial development in the last 15 years. These models were developed to deal explicitly with biological variation, in that animals in different “states” (classes defined by location, physiology, behavior, reproductive status, etc.) may have different probabilities of survival and detection. Animal transitions between states are also stochastic and themselves of interest. These general models have proven to be extremely useful and provide a way of thinking about a remarkably wide range of important ecological processes. These methods are now at a stage of refinement and sophistication where they can readily be used by biologists to tackle a wide range of important issues in ecology. In this paper, we draw together information on the state of the art in multistate mark–recapture methods, explaining the models and illustrating their use. We provide a modeling philosophy and a series of general principles on how to conduct analyses. We cover key issues and features, and we anticipate the ways in which we expect the models to develop in the years ahead.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Modeling individual animal histories with multistate capture–recapture models
Series title Advances in Ecological Research
DOI 10.1016/S0065-2504(09)00403-6
Volume 41
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 87 p.
First page 87
Last page 173
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