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Modeling Avian Full Annual Cycle Distribution and Population Trends with Citizen Science Data

By Daniel Fink, Tom Auer, Alison Johnston, Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez, Wesley M Hochachka, Steve Kelling

Posted 22 Jan 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/251868

Information on species' distributions and abundances, and how these change over time are central to the study of the ecology and conservation of animal populations. This information is challenging to obtain at relevant scales across range-wide extents for two main reasons. First, local and regional processes that affect populations vary throughout the year and across species' ranges, requiring fine-scale, year-round information across broad - sometimes hemispheric - spatial extents. Second, while citizen science projects can collect data at these scales, using these data requires appropriate analysis to address known sources of bias. Here we present an analytical framework to address these challenges and generate year-round, range-wide distributional information using citizen science data. To illustrate this approach, we apply the framework to Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), a long-distance Neotropical migrant and species of conservation concern, using data from the citizen science project eBird. We estimate occurrence and relative abundance with enough spatiotemporal resolution to support inference across a range of spatial scales throughout the annual cycle. Additionally, we generate intra-annual estimates of the range, intra-annual estimates of the associations between species and the local environment, and inter-annual trends in relative abundance. This is the first example of an analysis to capture intra- and inter-annual distributional dynamics across the entire range of a broadly distributed, highly mobile species.

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