Spatial Capture Recapture workshop

The Doctoral Programme in Biology, Geography and Geology of the University of Turku in Finland organized on 29th August – 2nd September 2016 a workshop of Spatial Capture Recapture modelling. Also more advanced researchers could apply for it, and I immediately sent an application when I heard of the workshop. The topic is something I have wanted to learn more. The teachers at the workshop were Andy Royle from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and Angela Fuller from the Cornell University. The first day of the workshop was voluntary, and aimed for people not that familiar with R. On that first day our teacher was Jon Brommer from the University of Turku. The workshop was held at the computer class room of geography and geology at the Natura building (photo below).

computer_classroom

I found that first day very useful, since my R skills are quite limited. We did together basic things such as importing scripts and datasets, and running codes. We also tested how to run the program WinBUGS.

The second day started with introductions. We were in total 25 participants and it was fascinating to hear the diverse research topics and study animals of everyone. Then we listened to lectures on how to collect data of capture recapture experiments (hair snares, scats, camera traps etc), and how important it is to add the spatial component to that data. Especially if you are studying rare species or animals that are difficult to recapture. We also learned that it is vital to simulate the data before starting the actual experiment. We also did exercises with R to analyse sample data.

On the third day we were introduced to the R package oSCR. Quite complex exercises with it (see photo of my RStudio below). 😉 But luckily this was only a workshop and there was no test in the end. So, everyone could try to find the answers alone or with a friend. And you could always ask for help. In the end the teachers showed how the code was written correctly. I found this method useful.

r-studio_screen

On the fourth day we learned of covariates and how to include those in the R scripts. Then Angela Fuller lectured of asymmetric space use which in reality is the same as environmental connectivity. In the end of the day we had the first part of presentations of participants and their study topics. In the evening we had a guided tour to the Zoological Museum of the University of Turku. It’s long since I have visited that place, so it was nice. Then we had dinner together at the Brewery Restaurant Koulu.

On the final day was first a lecture of trap location and spacing. It is important to capture individuals from a large area but also to get enough recaptures. Then we had the second part of participant presentations. During this week I had thought about our arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) data and could some of the methods we had learned be used to analyse the location of the breeding places. So, I made couple of slides for a short presentation and got good tips what methods could be used.

After this workshop I’m much more familiar with R. I’ll need to practice more with it now. I also learned a lot about capture recapture studies and how important the spatial component is. I liked how all the sample exercises were based on actual data of, for example, American minks (Fuller et al. 2016), black bears (Royle et al. 2015) and ocelots (Kolowski and Alonso 2010). This was an excellent workshop. Thanks to everyone!

group_photo

© Elina Mäntylä (elkuma@utu.fi), 7 September 2016

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