Bayesian Models: A Statistical Primer for Ecologists

Princeton University Press
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Bayesian modeling has become an indispensable tool for ecological research because it is uniquely suited to deal with complexity in a statistically coherent way. This textbook provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the latest Bayesian methods—in language ecologists can understand. Unlike other books on the subject, this one emphasizes the principles behind the computations, giving ecologists a big-picture understanding of how to implement this powerful statistical approach.

Bayesian Models is an essential primer for non-statisticians. It begins with a definition of probability and develops a step-by-step sequence of connected ideas, including basic distribution theory, network diagrams, hierarchical models, Markov chain Monte Carlo, and inference from single and multiple models. This unique book places less emphasis on computer coding, favoring instead a concise presentation of the mathematical statistics needed to understand how and why Bayesian analysis works. It also explains how to write out properly formulated hierarchical Bayesian models and use them in computing, research papers, and proposals.

This primer enables ecologists to understand the statistical principles behind Bayesian modeling and apply them to research, teaching, policy, and management.

  • Presents the mathematical and statistical foundations of Bayesian modeling in language accessible to non-statisticians
  • Covers basic distribution theory, network diagrams, hierarchical models, Markov chain Monte Carlo, and more
  • Deemphasizes computer coding in favor of basic principles
  • Explains how to write out properly factored statistical expressions representing Bayesian models
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About the author

N. Thompson Hobbs is senior research scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University. Mevin B. Hooten is associate professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology and the Department of Statistics at Colorado State University, and assistant unit leader in the US Geological Survey's Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
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Additional Information

Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 4, 2015
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Best For
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Mathematics / Applied
Mathematics / Probability & Statistics / Bayesian Analysis
Mathematics / Probability & Statistics / General
Science / Life Sciences / Ecology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Bringing Bayesian Models to Life empowers the reader to extend, enhance, and implement statistical models for ecological and environmental data analysis. We open the black box and show the reader how to connect modern statistical models to computer algorithms. These algorithms allow the user to fit models that answer their scientific questions without needing to rely on automated Bayesian software. We show how to handcraft statistical models that are useful in ecological and environmental science including: linear and generalized linear models, spatial and time series models, occupancy and capture-recapture models, animal movement models, spatio-temporal models, and integrated population-models.


R code implementing algorithms to fit Bayesian models using real and simulated data examples. A comprehensive review of statistical models commonly used in ecological and environmental science. Overview of Bayesian computational methods such as importance sampling, MCMC, and HMC. Derivations of the necessary components to construct statistical algorithms from scratch.

Bringing Bayesian Models to Life

contains a comprehensive treatment of models and associated algorithms for fitting the models to data. We provide detailed and annotated R code in each chapter and apply it to fit each model we present to either real or simulated data for instructional purposes. Our code shows how to create every result and figure in the book so that readers can use and modify it for their own analyses. We provide all code and data in an organized set of directories available at the authors' websites.
The study of animal movement has always been a key element in ecological science, because it is inherently linked to critical processes that scale from individuals to populations and communities to ecosystems. Rapid improvements in biotelemetry data collection and processing technology have given rise to a variety of statistical methods for characterizing animal movement. The book serves as a comprehensive reference for the types of statistical models used to study individual-based animal movement.

Animal Movement is an essential reference for wildlife biologists, quantitative ecologists, and statisticians who seek a deeper understanding of modern animal movement models. A wide variety of modeling approaches are reconciled in the book using a consistent notation. Models are organized into groups based on how they treat the underlying spatio-temporal process of movement. Connections among approaches are highlighted to allow the reader to form a broader view of animal movement analysis and its associations with traditional spatial and temporal statistical modeling.

After an initial overview examining the role that animal movement plays in ecology, a primer on spatial and temporal statistics provides a solid foundation for the remainder of the book. Each subsequent chapter outlines a fundamental type of statistical model utilized in the contemporary analysis of telemetry data for animal movement inference. Descriptions begin with basic traditional forms and sequentially build up to general classes of models in each category. Important background and technical details for each class of model are provided, including spatial point process models, discrete-time dynamic models, and continuous-time stochastic process models. The book also covers the essential elements for how to accommodate multiple sources of uncertainty, such as location error and latent behavior states. In addition to thorough descriptions of animal movement models, differences and connections are also emphasized to provide a broader perspective of approaches.

A guide to data collection, modeling and inference strategies for biological survey data using Bayesian and classical statistical methods.

This book describes a general and flexible framework for modeling and inference in ecological systems based on hierarchical models, with a strict focus on the use of probability models and parametric inference. Hierarchical models represent a paradigm shift in the application of statistics to ecological inference problems because they combine explicit models of ecological system structure or dynamics with models of how ecological systems are observed. The principles of hierarchical modeling are developed and applied to problems in population, metapopulation, community, and metacommunity systems.

The book provides the first synthetic treatment of many recent methodological advances in ecological modeling and unifies disparate methods and procedures.
The authors apply principles of hierarchical modeling to ecological problems, including

* occurrence or occupancy models for estimating species distribution
* abundance models based on many sampling protocols, including distance sampling
* capture-recapture models with individual effects
* spatial capture-recapture models based on camera trapping and related methods
* population and metapopulation dynamic models
* models of biodiversity, community structure and dynamics

* Wide variety of examples involving many taxa (birds, amphibians, mammals, insects, plants)

* Development of classical, likelihood-based procedures for inference, as well as
Bayesian methods of analysis

* Detailed explanations describing the implementation of hierarchical models using freely available software such as R and WinBUGS

* Computing support in technical appendices in an online companion web site
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