Archive for Banff National Park

Measuring abundance [book review]

Posted in Books, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2022 by xi'an

This 2020 book, Measuring Abundance:  Methods for the Estimation of Population Size and Species Richness was written by Graham Upton, retired professor of applied statistics, for the Data in the Wild series published by Pelagic Publishing, a publishing company based in Exeter.

“Measuring the abundance of individuals and the diversity of species are core components of most ecological research projects and conservation monitoring. This book brings together in one place, for the first time, the methods used to estimate the abundance of individuals in nature.”

Its purpose is to provide a collection of statistical methods for measuring animal abundance or lack thereof. There are four parts: a primer on statistical methods, going no further than maximum likelihood estimation and bootstrap. The term Bayesian only occurs once, in connection with the (a-Bayesian) BIC. (I first spotted a second entry, until I realised this was not a typo and the example truly was about Bawean warty pigs!) The second part is about stationary (or static) individuals, such as trees, and it mostly exposes different recognised ways of sampling, with a focus on minimising the surveyor’s effort. Examples include forestry sampling (with a chainsaw method!) and underwater sampling. There is very little statistics involved in this part apart from the rare appearance of a MLE with an asymptotic confidence interval. There is also very little about misspecified models, except for the occasional warning that the estimates may prove completely wrong. The third part is about mobile individuals, with capture-recapture methods receiving the lion’s share (!). No lion was actually involved in the studies used as examples (but there were grizzly bears from Yellowstone and Banff National Parks). Given the huge variety of capture-recapture models, very little input is found within the book as the practical aspects are delegated to R software like the RMark and mra packages. Very little is written on using covariates or spatial features in such models, mostly dedicated to printed output from R packages with AIC as the sole standard for comparing models. I did not know of distance methods (Chapter 8), which are less invasive counting methods. They however seem to rely on a particular model of missing on individuals as the distance increases. The last section is about estimating the number of species. With again a model assumption that may prove wrong. With the inclusion of diversity measures,

The contents of the book are really down to earth and intended for field data gatherers. For instance, “drive slowly and steadily at 20 mph with headlights and hazard lights on ” (p.91) or “Before starting to record, allow fish time to acclimatize to the presence of divers” (p.91). It is unclear to me how useful the book would prove to be for general statisticians, apart from revealing the huge diversity of methods actually employed in the field. To either build upon these or expose students to their reassessment. More advanced books are McCrea and Morgan (2014), Buckland et al. (2016) and the most recent Seber and Schofield (2019).

[Disclaimer about potential self-plagiarism: this post or an edited version will eventually appear in my Book Review section in CHANCE.]

the curious incident of the goose in the picture [17w5036]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on March 2, 2017 by xi'an

Banff workshop [BIRS 12w5105 meeting [#2]]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by xi'an

Today the program of 12w5105 was more on the theoretical side with adaptive MCMC in the morning and ABC in the afternoon. Éric Moulines and Gersende Fort shared a talk on two papers, one on adaptive tempering and the other one on equi-energy sampling, then Nando de Freitas spoke first about Gaussian process approximation for Bayesian optimisation, then about an adaptive Hamiltonian technique called Sardonics. And Jeff Rosenthal concluded the morning with a review of the results ensuring convergence for adaptive MCMC (with a delightful counter-example called Stairways to Heaven that reminded me of an ice climb in Utah!). After my talk, where Scott Sisson made an interesting comment on the difficulty to extend our framework to a large collection of models (since then the summary statistics have to differ), François Perron discussed in highly interesting details several approximation techniques for the Bayesian estimation of copulas and Scott Sisson presented his recent arXiv paper where a rough estimate of the joint posterior is obtained regression-adjustment ABC, and then estimates of each marginal posterior distribution are separately obtained in a lower-dimensional analysis, all this being connected with Bayes linear analysis. (I do not completely get the way summary statistics are selected for each marginal there, which seems to be done by hand. While I understand why using a lower-dimensional statistic helps in improving the approximation of the marginal posteriors and fights the curse of dimensionality, the fact that the joint posterior sample is based on different summary statistics for the different components makes an interesting statistical puzzle. Maybe the copula approach by François in the previous talk could be used at the final stage.) The final talk by Zhiqiang Tan on comparative performances of resampling and subsampling strategies generated a very animated discussion. (All talks being recorded, mine is available as an mp4 video but watch at your own peril!)

Banff sunrise

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , on March 19, 2012 by xi'an

back to Banff

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on March 18, 2012 by xi'an

After a mostly cloudy flight over Greenland, I landed in Calgary this afternoon and am now in Banff for this exciting MCMC workshop! Also looking forward a hike with Devin tomorrow, hoping the weather will not turn to heavy snow!

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