Designing occupancy studies when false-positive detections occur

Methods in Ecology and Evolution



1.Recently, estimators have been developed to estimate occupancy probabilities when false-positive detections occur during presence-absence surveys. Some of these estimators combine different types of survey data to improve estimates of occupancy. With these estimators, there is a tradeoff between the number of sample units surveyed, and the number and type of surveys at each sample unit. Guidance on efficient design of studies when false positives occur is unavailable.

2.For a range of scenarios, I identified survey designs that minimized the mean square error of the estimate of occupancy. I considered an approach that uses one survey method and two observation states and an approach that uses two survey methods. For each approach, I used numerical methods to identify optimal survey designs when model assumptions were met and parameter values were correctly anticipated, when parameter values were not correctly anticipated, and when the assumption of no unmodelled detection heterogeneity was violated.

3.Under the approach with two observation states, false positive detections increased the number of recommended surveys, relative to standard occupancy models. If parameter values could not be anticipated, pessimism about detection probabilities avoided poor designs. Detection heterogeneity could require more or fewer repeat surveys, depending on parameter values. If model assumptions were met, the approach with two survey methods was inefficient. However, with poor anticipation of parameter values, with detection heterogeneity, or with removal sampling schemes, combining two survey methods could improve estimates of occupancy.

4.Ignoring false positives can yield biased parameter estimates, yet false positives greatly complicate the design of occupancy studies. Specific guidance for major types of false-positive occupancy models, and for two assumption violations common in field data, can conserve survey resources. This guidance can be used to design efficient monitoring programs and studies of species occurrence, species distribution, or habitat selection, when false positives occur during surveys.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Designing occupancy studies when false-positive detections occur
Series title Methods in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1111/2041-210X.12617
Volume 7
Issue 12
Year Published 2016
Language English
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 19 p.
First page 1529
Last page 1547