Robert William Rankin

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PhD Candidate

See code for statistical analyses on my Github page, as well my
Blog on statistics, education, ecology.

Download my publicatons at ResearchGate

I am a quantitative ecologist interested in the life-history and sociality of marine megafauna. My research focuses on developing models in the mark-recapture, social networks, and Bayesian methods which combine the two. Cetacean researchers often consider my research to be highly theoretical, while statisticians consider my work to be very applied. The truth is somewhere in between: to develop rigorous means of inference for important conservation and ecological questions.
Some questions I am interested in include:

  • how can population abundance and life-history models benefit from the information contained in dolphin social affiliations?
  • how do Tursiops social networks evolve over time? How are network metrics constrained and how do they compare across Tursiops populations in Australia?
  • how can social structure analyses better handle observation error and biased field sampling from boat-based platforms?

I am originally from Washago, ON, Canada. I earned a B.Sc. in Environmental Science from Simon Fraser University (Canada), a M.Sc. in Biology from Lund University (Sweden), and have worked in a variety of places such as the Canadian Arctic, Hawai’i, and the Grenadines. Most recently, I was a computational ecologist with NOAA in Silver Spring, MD, developing hierarchical machine-learning models of seabird distributions.

Lund University, Sweden 2007 – 2010
M.Sc. in Biology (Zooecology). Thesis on avian community ecology and landscape heterogeneity in Sweden. Supervisors: Dr. Henrik Smith and Dr. Ola Olsson

Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada 2003 – 2007
B.Sc. in Environmental Science, Co-op Programme.

Publications

Rankin RW. 2016. EM and component-wise boosting for Hidden Markov Models: a machine-learning approach to capture-recapture. bioRxiv pre-print, doi:10.1101/052266. In review. Free preprint, Online Supplementary tutorial

Hunt T, Bejder L, Allen SJ, Rankin RW, Hanf D, Parra GJ. in press. Demographic characteristics of Australian humpback dolphins reveal important habitat toward the south-western limit of their range. Endangered Species Research. doi: 10.3354/esr00784.

Bossley MI, Steiner A, Rankin RW, Bejder L. 2016. A long-term study of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in an Australian industrial estuary: Increased sightings associated with environmental improvements. Marine Mammal Science 33:277–290. doi: 10.1111/mms.12368.

Rankin RW, Nicholson KE, Allen SJ, Krützen M, Bejder L, Pollock KH. 2016. A full-capture Hierarchical Bayesian model of Pollock’s Closed Robust Design and application to dolphins. Frontiers in Marine Science 3:25. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00025. Free PDF. Online Supplementary tutorial.

Rankin RW, Mann J, Singh L, Patterson EM, Krzyszczyk E, Bejder L. 2016. The role of weighted and topological network information to understand animal social networks: a null model approach. Animal Behaviour 113:215–228. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.12.015.. PDF

Sprogis KR, Raudino HC, Rankin R, MacLeod CD, Bejder L. 2016. Home range size of adult Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins ( Tursiops aduncus ) in a coastal and estuarine system is habitat and sex-specific. Marine Mammal Science 32:287–308. doi: 10.1111/mms.12260. PDF

Tyne JA, Johnston DW, Rankin R, Loneragan NR, Bejder L. 2015. The importance of spinner dolphin ( Stenella longirostris ) resting habitat: implications for management. Journal of Applied Ecology 52:621–630.doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12434. PDF

Winship AJ, Rankin RW, Kinlan BP, Caldow C. 2014. Predictive habitat modelling of marine bird distributions to inform spatial planning and risk assessment. Biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting, 23-28 February 2014, Honolulu HI.

Rankin RW, Maldini D, Kaufman G. 2014. Bayesian estimate of Australian humpback whale calving intervals under sparse resighting rates: 1985 – 2009. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management. 13(2): 109-122. PDF

Silva I, Kaufman G, Rankin RW, Maldini D. 2013. Presence and distribution of Hawaiian false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) in Maui County Waters: a historical perspective. Aquatic Mammals 39(4): 409-414.

Kinlan BP, Rankin RW, Caldow C. 2013. Predictive models of marine bird distribution as a spatial planning tool: a case study in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic. Pacific Seabird Group 40th Annual Meeting, 20-23 February 2013, Portland OR.

Maldini D, Eby R, Scoles R, Cotter MP, Rankin RW. 2012. Patterns of sea otter haul-out behavior in a california tidal estuary in relation to environmental variables. Northwestern Naturalist 93: 63-74. doi: 10.1898/10-29.1. PDF

Tonachella N, Nastasi A, Maldini D, Kaufman G, Rankin RW. 2012. Predicting trends in humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) abundance using citizen-science. Pacific Conservation Biology 18(4): 297-309. doi: 10.1071/PC120297. PDF

My research focuses on quantitative methods in the mark-recapture, social network theory, and Bayesian techniques to combine the two. I am interested in questions such as:

– how do Tursiops social networks evolve over time? How are network metrics constrained and how do they compare across Tursiops populations in Australia?
– how can traditional population abundance and life-history models benefit from the information contained in dolphin social affliations?
– how can social structure analyses better incorporate observation error and biased field sampling?

I am developing models through a combination of simulations and data from long-term photo-ID studies of Tursiops sp. from Shark Bay, WA, and the Adelaide Port River system, SA.

Rankin RW. 2016. EM and component-wise boosting for Hidden Markov Models: a machine-learning approach to capture-recapture. bioRxiv pre-print, doi:10.1101/052266. In review. Free preprint, Online Supplementary tutorial

Rankin RW. 2016. EM and component-wise boosting for Hidden Markov Models: a machine-learning approach to capture-recapture. bioRxiv pre-print, doi:10.1101/052266. In review. Free preprint, Online Supplementary tutorial

Hunt T, Bejder L, Allen SJ, Rankin RW, Hanf D, Parra GJ. in press. Demographic characteristics of Australian humpback dolphins reveal important habitat toward the south-western limit of their range. Endangered Species Research. doi: 10.3354/esr00784.

Bossley MI, Steiner A, Rankin RW, Bejder L. 2016. A long-term study of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in an Australian industrial estuary: Increased sightings associated with environmental improvements. Marine Mammal Science 33:277–290. doi: 10.1111/mms.12368.

Rankin RW, Nicholson KE, Allen SJ, Krützen M, Bejder L, Pollock KH. 2016. A full-capture Hierarchical Bayesian model of Pollock’s Closed Robust Design and application to dolphins. Frontiers in Marine Science 3:25. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00025. Free PDF. Online Supplementary tutorial.

Rankin RW, Mann J, Singh L, Patterson EM, Krzyszczyk E, Bejder L. 2016. The role of weighted and topological network information to understand animal social networks: a null model approach. Animal Behaviour 113:215–228. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.12.015.. PDF

Sprogis KR, Raudino HC, Rankin R, MacLeod CD, Bejder L. 2016. Home range size of adult Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins ( Tursiops aduncus ) in a coastal and estuarine system is habitat and sex-specific. Marine Mammal Science 32:287–308. doi: 10.1111/mms.12260. PDF

Tyne JA, Johnston DW, Rankin R, Loneragan NR, Bejder L. 2015. The importance of spinner dolphin ( Stenella longirostris ) resting habitat: implications for management. Journal of Applied Ecology 52:621–630.doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12434. PDF

Winship AJ, Rankin RW, Kinlan BP, Caldow C. 2014. Predictive habitat modelling of marine bird distributions to inform spatial planning and risk assessment. Biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting, 23-28 February 2014, Honolulu HI.

Rankin RW, Maldini D, Kaufman G. 2014. Bayesian estimate of Australian humpback whale calving intervals under sparse resighting rates: 1985 – 2009. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management. 13(2): 109-122. PDF

Silva I, Kaufman G, Rankin RW, Maldini D. 2013. Presence and distribution of Hawaiian false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) in Maui County Waters: a historical perspective. Aquatic Mammals 39(4): 409-414.

Kinlan BP, Rankin RW, Caldow C. 2013. Predictive models of marine bird distribution as a spatial planning tool: a case study in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic. Pacific Seabird Group 40th Annual Meeting, 20-23 February 2013, Portland OR.

Maldini D, Eby R, Scoles R, Cotter MP, Rankin RW. 2012. Patterns of sea otter haul-out behavior in a california tidal estuary in relation to environmental variables. Northwestern Naturalist 93: 63-74. doi: 10.1898/10-29.1. PDF

Tonachella N, Nastasi A, Maldini D, Kaufman G, Rankin RW. 2012. Predicting trends in humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) abundance using citizen-science. Pacific Conservation Biology 18(4): 297-309. doi: 10.1071/PC120297. PDF

WORK EXPERIENCE
NOAA/CSS-Dynamac, Computational Ecologist Aug 2012 – July 2013
On-site contractor. Developed seabird distribution models that coupled machine-learning and hierarchical distributions for marine spatial planning.

Bird Studies Canada, Data analyst, Nov 2010 – May 2011
Conducted ecosystem assessments, trend analyses, and community indicators of birds and amphibians for bi-national government & citizen-science monitoring program. Implemented analytical routines in open-source code (R).

Sustainable Grenadines Inc., Livelihoods Facilitator, Mar 2010 – Sep 2010
Coordinated projects with Grenadine marine resource users (mariculture cooperative, fisher-folk organizations, and a lagoon restoration project). Duties included avian point counts & water-chemistry monitoring, report/proposal writing, and NGO capacity-building.

Canadian Wildlife Service, Field Technician, Summers 2008 & 2009
Monitored High Arctic seabird colonies for research and long-term assessments, including reproduction and abundance estimates, bird capture and device mounting.

Oregon State University Field Technician Spring 2009
Avian point-counts in the Western Cascade mountains.

US Fish & Wildlife Service, Field Technician, Summer 2007
Monitored Arctic breeding shorebirds on the North-Slope of Alaska, including banding, nest searching, telemetry, and blood-taking.

Environment Canada, Assistant/Coordinator Sep 2006 – May 2007
Assistant to the working group of a national scientific assessment on the status and trends of Canadian ecosystems.

Frontier College, Labourer-Teacher Summer 2003
Organized ESL classes and performed general advocacy for Mexican Migrant Workers.

COLLABORATORS
Dr. Lars Bejder, Murdoch University (Supervisor)
Dr. Ken Pollock, North Carolina State University (Co-supervisor)
Dr. Mike Bossley, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Adelaide.
Mrs. Aude Steiner, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Adelaide.
Dr. Janet Mann, Georgetown University.

Rm 1.005, Cetacean Research Unit, School of Veterinary & Life Science
Murdoch University, South St. Murdoch WA 6150
R.Rankin@murdoch.edu.au

See code for statistical analyses on my Github page, as well my
Blog on statistics, education, ecology.

Download my publicatons at ResearchGate

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