Understanding seabirds: a statistical perspective

Adam Butler (BioSS)

Friday 13th December, 2013 15:00-16:00 Maths 204


Seabirds are a familiar but elusive part of our natural environment, and a vital part of the marine ecosystem. We need to be able to understand the key aspects of their behaviour - such as breeding and foraging - in order to assess the impacts of fisheries, offshore renewable projects or Marine Protected Areas. This understanding relies upon data, but data on seabirds are, typically, difficult to collect: colonies are often in isolated and inaccessible locations, and birds may spend a large proportion of their time at sea. In this talk I will outline the main sources of data that are available for studying seabirds - censuses, annual colony counts, ship-based surveys, and electronic tags - and will illustrate the statistical issues that are associated with analyzing each of these sources of data. I will outline some of the ways in which modern statistical methods - including hidden Markov models, generalized linear mixed models and hierarchical Bayesian approaches - can be used to draw inferences about behavior, abundance and spatial distribution, and will discuss the opportunities and challenges that arise from the increasing availability of electronic tag data.

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