Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

A full-capture Hierarchical Bayesian model of Pollock's Closed Robust Design and application to dolphins

Rankin, R.W., Nicholson, K.E., Allen, S., Krützen, M., Bejder, L. and Pollock, K. (2016) A full-capture Hierarchical Bayesian model of Pollock's Closed Robust Design and application to dolphins. Frontiers in Marine Science, 3 (25).

PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (3MB) | Preview
Free to read:
*No subscription required


We present a Hierarchical Bayesian version of Pollock's Closed Robust Design for studying the survival, temporary-migration, and abundance of marked animals. Through simulations and analyses of a bottlenose dolphin photo-identification dataset, we compare several estimation frameworks, including Maximum Likelihood estimation (ML), model-averaging by AICc, as well as Bayesian and Hierarchical Bayesian (HB) procedures. Our results demonstrate a number of advantages of the Bayesian framework over other popular methods. First, for simple fixed-effect models, we show the near-equivalence of Bayesian and ML point-estimates and confidence/credibility intervals. Second, we demonstrate how there is an inherent correlation among temporary-migration and survival parameter estimates in the PCRD, and while this can lead to serious convergence issues and singularities among MLEs, we show that the Bayesian estimates were more reliable. Third, we demonstrate that a Hierarchical Bayesian model with carefully thought-out hyperpriors, can lead to similar parameter estimates and conclusions as multi-model inference by AICc model-averaging. This latter point is especially interesting for mark-recapture practitioners, for whom model-uncertainty and multi-model inference have become a major preoccupation. Lastly, we extend the Hierarchical Bayesian PCRD to include full-capture histories (i.e., by modelling a recruitment process) and individual-level heterogeneity in detection probabilities, which can have important consequences for the range of phenomena studied by the PCRD, as well as lead to large differences in abundance estimates. For example, we estimate 8%-24% more bottlenose dolphins in the western gulf of Shark Bay than previously estimated by ML and AICc-based model-averaging. Other important extensions are discussed. Our Bayesian PCRD models are written in the BUGS-like JAGS language for easy dissemination and customization by the community of capture-mark-recapture practitioners.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Frontiers Media
Copyright: © 2016 Rankin, Nicholson, Allen, Krützen, Bejder and Pollock.
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year