Fish and Wildlife Population Ecology  - Dr. Edward O. Garton



 WLF 543
Fall 2009

MWF 10:30-11:20  TLC 144                                                 4 credits
Lab Wednesday  2:30-4:20  McClure 214A

Instructor: E. O. Garton Office Hours: Mon Fri 9:30-10:20 Tu Thur 3:30-4:15
      FWR  104E, (885-7426)          

Teaching Assistant: Harry Jageman    Office Hours:  MWF 9:30-10:20  
                             CNR 18, 885-9440

The goal of this course is to introduce you to statistical and mathematical methods that are useful in the analysis and management of wildlife, fish and all animal populations.  “The overarching theme is that modeling, estimation and optimal decision making are linked together in the doing of science-based conservation.  Models play key roles in both the science and management of biological systems, as expressions of biological understanding, as engines for deductive inference, and as articulations of biological response to management and environmental change.  These roles are supported by the principles of sampling design and statistical inference, which focus on the use of field observations to identify and calibrate models according to their purposes and objectives… We are concerned here with animal populations, recognizing that population biology ultimately must be understood in a broader context of the habitats and communities of which populations are a part.  We build on the notion of a population as a partially self-regulating ecological unit composed of potentially interbreeding individuals, with characteristics such as birth rate, death rate, age structure and dispersion pattern through space and time.”1.The methods and their assumptions will be developed through readings, lectures and discussions and applied to fish and wildlife populations during the laboratory period.  We will devote a full month to really learning how to use the full power of the Program MARK that provides easy-to-use tools to perform maximum likelihood estimation of survival, reproduction and population estimation under complex, realistic models mixing both open and closed periods and transitions between ages or spatial locations.  Instead of having exams, each student will be expected to conduct one laboratory period and to carry out a detailed research project that s/he will present to the class at the end of the semester.  This will give you practice in the processes of teaching, research and professional presentation.

Lab Outline         Lecture Outline


1. The first required text is the excellent book by Ken Williams (B. K.), Jim Nichols (J. D.) and Mike Conroy (M. J.) (2002) Analysis and Management of Animal Populations. Academic Press, San Diego. 817 p.

2. In line with our extra emphasis on population viability approaches this year, we'll use Morris (W. F.) and Dan (F.) Doak's Quantitative Conservation Biology: Theory and Practice of Population Viability Analysis (2002.  Sinauer Assoc., Sunderland, MA.).

3.  The final required text will be the free online tutorial to program MARK by Evan Cooch and Gary White. (URL to be added)

4.  A recommended text is Ken Burnham and Dave Anderson's 2002 Model Selection and Multimodel Inference: A Practical Information-Theoretic Approach, (2nd ed. Springer, New York, NY) that we will discuss early in the course and refer to frequently.

4. If you do not have a good statistics text, I recommend that you buy: Zar, J. H. 1999. Biostatistical Analysis. 4th Edition. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 736 p. Even if you do have another text you ought to look at this and consider purchasing it.

5. If you haven't obtained a copy of the new edition of the Wildlife Techniques Manual, you will need it for some of the readings and methods: Braun, Clait (ed.).  2005.  Techniques For Wildlife Investigations and Management.  The Wildlife Society, Bethesda, MD.  974 p.  The bookstore has it under Wlf 448.

6.  This year, in the interests of not breaking each of your personal piggy banks, I decided not to require the excellent book by Gary White and Bob Garrott (1990) Analysis of Wildlife Radiotracking Data (Academic Press, New York, NY).  It covers home range, habitat, survival and population estimation at a graduate level but a lot of this overlaps with Ken Williams, et al's book.


            Since we are a nice small class this year and there will be plenty of time for labs and lab presentations later in the semester.  The course will not start meeting until Sept. 28 so that students with active field work in late summer and those attending Cort Anderson’s genetics lab course will not have a conflict.  This date will insure that we do not interfere with anyone presenting papers (I am doing 2) during the Wildlife Society meeting in Monterey, CA.


The project is an opportunity to dig deeply into one area of population analysis which you find of special interest. Projects of a variety of types will be acceptable. Examples: 1) Analysis of the relationship between cow:calf ratios in a management unit and weather conditions in that area during previous years; 2) Estimation of abundance, mortality and survival from mark-recapture data collected previously; 3) Development of a population model for a wildlife population and estimation of the necessary parameters for this model; 4) Evaluation and comparison of the effects of location errors on home range estimates based on 4 estimators; 5) Derivation of a sequential sampling estimator for snag densities on National Forest lands. I encourage you to do a project based on your own data, where possible. Projects should be developed in consultation with the instructor and TA. A brief description of the project (worth 10 points) must be submitted by November 13. Each student will give an oral presentation (50 points) to the class and other students and faculty during the weeks of Dec. 7 to Dec. 11. The final report (100 points) will be due on December 1? when the class final is scheduled. The final report should take the form of a manuscript for submission to a national or international journal.


We will be meeting each week in one of the microcomputer teaching labs (McClure 214A) starting in late-September to get hands-on experience analyzing population and habitat data.  The first few labs will be presented by the TA and Dr. Garton and then Jeff Manning will present 4 weeks of lectures and labs on program MARK. Each of you will present a lab on a topic/method that you have used or anticipate using in your own research during the remaining labs. All of the lab materials (handouts, programs, datasets, etc.) will be distributed through the web site and university servers ( and k: drive under wlf543). You will gain some good teaching experience in preparation of the instructions and assignment, creation of the web site materials, organization of the programs and data on the UI server, presentation of the lab, and grading the answers of your fellow students. The students have enjoyed doing this the last four years and it keeps the methods covered very relevant to your research. The lab will be worth 100 points consisting of 60 points for your preparation and materials, 20 points for your presentation, and 20 points for your grading.

Since radiotelemetry has become such an integral part of much of the modern fish and wildlife population research I would suggest the following as potential topics but you’re free to choose other topics too:

Home range size
Dispersal distance
Habitat selection:
    Log-linear models
    Selectivity indices
    Compositional analysis
    Multiple regression
    Mahalanobis distance (discriminant analysis)
    Factor analysis
    Logistic regression
    Polytomous logistic regression
    Discrete choice modeling
    Resource selection probability functions
    Ecological-Niche Factor Analysis
    Step selection functions
Population size estimation from mark-resight
Survival rate  
Population Modeling


Grades will be based upon one lab presentation (100 points), approximately 10 problem sets (20 points each), and a project (160 points). Assignments turned in late will lose 2 points per day. The total accumulated points (out of about 500) will be curved and grades assigned on this basis.

Preliminary Topical Outline (2007 version)


Williams, et al Braun

1. Ecological Investigations:
        A philosophy of ecological science
       Models and their role in science
       Hierarchical Organization of Populations. 

Chap. 1-3 Chap. 3

2. Sampling = Estimation

Chap. 4-5 Chap. 4

3. Hypothesis Testing = Comparisons

Chap. 6 Chap. 6

4. Count Data:     Ratios, Proportions and Chi-square


5a. Linear Models: Univariate and multivariate

Chap. 7  

5b. Modeling
        a.  Overview of approaches
        b. Systems and population dynamics models
        c. Probability, likelihood and maximum likelihood
        d. Model selection criteria (AIC, BIC, etc.)
        e. Bayesian approaches
        f.  Sensitivity analysis and validation
        g. Adaptive management

Burnham & Anderson, 2002      Chap. 1-4  

6. Evaluating Population Regulation
       a. K-factor analysis, eigenvalue sensitivity, elasticity
       b. Simple models of birth rates and death rates
       c. Test of "causes"
       d. Prediction
       e. Modeling - Age structured models with dependent rates
       f. Evaluation of management strategies

Chap. 8,10  

7. Evaluating Population Changes
       a. Eberhardt's approach
        b. Time series approaches
            i. Graphical
            ii. Autoregression
            iii. Spectral analysis
        c. Stochastic growth models
        d. Population viability
            ii. MetaPVA

Chap. 9,11 Chap. 26

8. Estimating Abundance
a. Quadrat counts
b. Correction for visibility bias
c. Mark-recapture
d. Transects
e. Variable Circular Plots

Chap. 12-15 Chap. 5

9. Survival
a. Life tables
b. Banding data
c. Telemetry
d. Mark-resight

Chap. 16-19  
10. Population Projection/Viability Analysis
a. Count-based PVA
   i. Density-independent models
   ii. Density-dependence, stochasticity & catastrophes
b. Demographic PVAs
c. Sensitivity Analysis
d. Metapopulation Viability Analysis
   i. Dispersal and environmental correlation
   ii. Spatially structured populations
Morris & Doak - Chap.1-12



11. Home Range Estimation

  Chap. 14

12. Habitat/Dietary Selection

  Chap. 17

13. Gradient/Cluster Analysis


14. Niche Overlap/Breadth

Chap. 20  
15. Harvest Chap. 11 Chap.25




 Braun, Clait (ed.).  2005.  Techniques For Wildlife Investigations and Management.  The Wildlife Society, Bethesda, MD.  974 p.

 Caswell, H.  2001.  Matrix Population Models: Construction, Analysis, and Interpretation.  Sinauer Assoc., Sunderland, MA.  722 p.

 Caughley, G.  1977.  Analysis of vertebrate populations.  John Wiley and Sons, N.Y.  234 p.

 Poole, R. W.  1974.  An introduction to quantitative ecology.  McGraw-Hill Book Company, N.Y.  532 p.

 Williams, B. K., J. D.  Nichols and M. J. Conroy . 2002. Analysis and Management of Animal Populations. Academic Press, San Diego. 817 p.


 Seber, G. A. F.  1982.  The estimation of animal abundance and related parameters.  2nd Edition.  Griffin, London.  600 p.

Population Viability Analysis:

Beissinger, S. R. and D. R. McCullough.  2002. Population Viability Analysis.  Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 577 p.

Morris, W. F. and D. F. Doak. 2002.  Quantitative Conservation Biology: Theory and Practice of Population Viability Analysis.  Sinauer Assoc., Sunderland, MA. 480 p.

Statistical Methods:

  Burnham, Kenneth P. and David R. Anderson.  2002.  Model Selection and Multimodel Interence: A Practical Information-Theoretic Approach, 2nd ed.  Springer Science, New York, NY. 488 p.

Cohen, Jacob  1988.  Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. 2nd. ed. Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., Hillsdale, NJ. 567 p.

Snedechor, G. W. and W. G. Cochran.  1967.  Statistical methods. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa. 593 p.

 Sokal, R. R. and F. J. Rohlf.  1981.  Biometry.  2nd Edition.  W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco.  859 p.

 Remington, R. D. and M. A. Schork.  1970.  Statistics with applications to the biological and health sciences.  Prentice-Hall, New Jersey.  418 p.

 Schaeffer, R. L., W. Mendenhall, and L. Ott.  1979.  Elementary Survey Sampling.  Second Edition.  Duxbury Press, Mass.  278 p.

 SAS Institute Inc.  2002.  SAS User's Guide:  Basics, 2002 edition.  SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.  923 p.

 SAS Institute Inc.  2002.  SAS User's Guide:  Statistics, 2002 edition.  SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.  923 p.

 Siegle, S.  1956.  Nonparametric statistics.  McGraw-Hill Book Company, N.Y.  312 p.

 Zar, J. H.  1999.  Biostatistical Analysis.  4th Edition.  Prentice-Hall, Inc.  Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  736 p.