A general discrete-time modeling framework for animal movement using multistate random walks

McClintock, B.T., King, R., Thomas, L., Matthiopoulos, J. , McConnell, B.J. and Morales, J.M. (2012) A general discrete-time modeling framework for animal movement using multistate random walks. Ecological Monographs, 82(3), pp. 335-349. (doi: 10.1890/11-0326.1)

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Recent developments in animal tracking technology have permitted the collection of detailed data on the movement paths of individuals from many species. However, analysis methods for these data have not developed at a similar pace, largely due to a lack of suitable candidate models, coupled with the technical difficulties of fitting such models to data. To facilitate a general modeling framework, we propose that complex movement paths can be conceived as a series of movement strategies among which animals transition as they are affected by changes in their internal and external environment. We synthesize previously existing and novel methodologies to develop a general suite of mechanistic models based on biased and correlated random walks that allow different behavioral states for directed (e.g., migration), exploratory (e.g., dispersal), area-restricted (e.g., foraging), and other types of movement. Using this “toolbox” of nested model components, multistate movement models may be custom-built for a wide variety of species and applications. As a unified state-space modeling framework, it allows the simultaneous investigation of numerous hypotheses about animal movement from imperfectly observed data, including time allocations to different movement behavior states, transitions between states, the use of memory or navigation, and strengths of attraction (or repulsion) to specific locations. The inclusion of covariate information permits further investigation of specific hypotheses related to factors driving different types of movement behavior. Using reversible-jump Markov chain Monte Carlo methods to facilitate Bayesian model selection and multi-model inference, we apply the proposed methodology to real data by adapting it to the natural history of the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) in the North Sea. Although previous grey seal studies tended to focus on correlated movements, we found overwhelming evidence that bias toward haul-out or foraging locations better explained seal movement than did simple or correlated random walks. Posterior model probabilities also provided evidence that seals transition among directed, area-restricted, and exploratory movements associated with haul-out, foraging, and other behaviors. With this intuitive framework for modeling and interpreting animal movement, we believe that the development and application of custom-made movement models will become more accessible to ecologists and non-statisticians.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Matthiopoulos, Professor Jason
Authors: McClintock, B.T., King, R., Thomas, L., Matthiopoulos, J., McConnell, B.J., and Morales, J.M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Ecological Monographs
Publisher:Ecological Society of America
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2012 Ecological Society of America
First Published:First published in Ecological Monographs 82(3):335-349
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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