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Megan D. Higgs

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Abstract. It is increasingly common for studies of animal ecology to use model-based predictions of environmental variables as explanatory or predictor variables, even though model prediction uncertainty is typically unknown. To demonstrate the potential for misleading inferences when model predictions with error are used in place of direct measurements, we compared snow water equivalent (SWE) and snow depth as predicted by the Snow Data Assimilation System (SNODAS) to field measurements of SWE and snow depth. We examined locations on elk (Cervus canadensis) winter ranges in western Wyoming, because modeled data such as SNODAS output are often used for inferences on elk ecology. Overall, SNODAS predictions tended...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Ecological Applications
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Understanding how animal density is related to pathogen transmission is important to develop effective disease control strategies, but requires measuring density at a scale relevant to transmission. However, this is not straightforward or well-studied among large mammals with group sizes that range several orders of magnitude or aggregation patterns that vary across space and time. To address this issue, we examined spatial variation in elk (Cervus canadensis) aggregation patterns and brucellosis across 10 regions in the Greater Yellowstone Area where previous studies suggest the disease may be increasing. We hypothesized that rates of increasing brucellosis would be better related to the frequency of large groups...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Ecosphere
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Doak and Cutler critiqued methods used by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) to estimate grizzly bear population size and trend in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Here, we focus on the premise, implementation, and interpretation of simulations they used to support their arguments. They argued that population increases documented by IGBST based on females with cubs-of-the-year were an artifact of increased search effort. However, we demonstrate their simulations were neither reflective of the true observation process nor did their results provide statistical support for their conclusion. They further argued that survival and reproductive senescence should be incorporated into population projections,...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Conservation Letters
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The Yellowstone grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) was listed as a threatened species in 1975 (Federal Register 40 FR:31734-31736). Since listing, recovery efforts have focused on increasing population size, improving habitat security, managing bear mortalities, and reducing bear-human conflicts. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC; partnership of federal and state agencies responsible for grizzly bear recovery in the lower 48 states) and its Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommitte (YES; federal, state, county, and tribal partners charged with recovery of grizzly bears in the Greater Yelowston Ecosystem [GYE]) tasked the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team to provide information and further research relevant to three...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation
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Mark-resight designs for estimation of population abundance are common and attractive to researchers. However, inference from such designs is very limited when faced with sparse data, either from a low number of marked animals, a low probability of detection, or both. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, yearly mark-resight data are collected for female grizzly bears with cubs-of-the-year (FCOY), and inference suffers from both limitations. To overcome difficulties due to sparseness, we assume homogeneity in sighting probabilities over 16 years of bi-annual aerial surveys. We model counts of marked and unmarked animals as multinomial random variables, using the capture frequencies of marked animals for inference...
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