Welcome to the course site for the 2015 Spatial Models for Distance Sampling course at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham NC. It will take place Tuesday October 27-Friday, October 30, 2015.  The workshop is hosted by the Duke Environmental Leadership Program in the Levine Science Research Center, at Duke University.

The course is intended for quantitatively-minded scientists who wish to analyse spatially explicit line transect distance sampling data. In particular we envisage graduate students/postdocs/faculty in applied ecology, government/industry scientists and wildlife managers amongst the participants. Although the main examples in the course will be in a marine setting, the methodology and software demonstrated are equally applicable to terrestrial situations.

Program Description

The workshop will cover both theory and practice and demonstrate an end-to-end workflow for spatial modelling of distance sampling data collected via line transect surveys.

Throughout the course we will follow the “density surface modelling” approach of Hedley and Buckland (2004), updated with methods from Miller et al (2013) — that is first modelling detectability via a detection function, then using this to create a detection-adjusted spatial model using generalized additive models (GAMs). Modelling will take place in R using packages developed by the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling and NOAA.

An integral part of developing these models is the management and manipulation of geospatial data. Important skills include mapping and exploring data, reformatting data for analysis, obtaining and sampling environmental predictors (e.g. from remote sensing imagery), and moving data between GIS and R. For these activities, we will use ArcGIS and the Marine Geospatial Ecology Tools (MGET) package (Roberts et al. 2010), developed at the Duke Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab.

Note: Practical lessons will be taught in a computer lab at Duke, however participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops and use them for some or all parts of the practical sessions. Those bringing their own laptops should consult materials on the Distance website to ensure that their software is setup correctly beforehand.

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