Workshop: Spatial modelling of cetacean habitat use and abundance

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Murdoch University-Flinders University Workshops

Spatial modelling of cetacean habitat use and abundance

Two workshops, funded by the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, are planned to build expertise in the Australian marine mammal research community in the use of spatial modelling techniques that allows habitat use to be quantified and abundance to be estimated from line transect data. These statistical methods can be complex and sophisticated. Researchers unfamiliar with the methods face a steep learning curve and this can limit the potential impacts of research projects. The workshop will give Australian marine mammal researchers the practical hands-on skills to apply some of the more accessible models, providing insight and familiarity but stressing the limitations of currently available methods.

Time and Location:
Workshop #1:

Location: Fremantle, Western Australia.
Dates: January 24th-28th, 2011
Venue: The Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle, WA

Workshop #2:
Location: Port Lincoln, South Australia.
Dates: January 31st – February 4, 2011
Venue: Lincoln Marine Science Centre, SA
There are no fees for attendance at the workshops. Lunch, tea and coffee will be provided.

Applications close on 15 Dec 2010. Please send a one page CV and
letter stating your interest in the course. Please note: there is limited space available at the workshops. Successful applicants will be notified on 3rd January 2011.

Admission requirements
This course is designed for postgraduate students conducting studies in the fields of biological or environmental sciences as well as professionals at relevant research/ management organisations interested in spatial modelling of habitat use and abundance of marine mammals. Participants will be expected to have completed a Bachelor of Science degree. Participants will be selected by relevance to their research and priority will be given to those who are directly involved in marine mammal research and conservation in Australia.

All participants will be required to download the Distance and R software to their laptops before the workshop. Computers will not be provided. International participants must hold a valid visa for their stay in Australia over the duration of the course and meet the University’s English Language requirements.

Course Presenters
Dr Ana Cañadas (ALNILAM Research and Conservation, Spain) is an experienced practitioner of all aspects of spatial modelling of cetacean data: collection, processing and organisation, analysis and using the results to inform conservation. She has organised and contributed to workshops on estimating abundance and spatial modelling. She is a regular invitee to workshops on cetacean habitat issues.

Professor Philip Hammond (Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews, UK) is an experienced teacher of quantitative ecology including courses on quantitative methods in biology, ecology, marine mammal biology and conservation research methods. He contributes to and helps organise workshops on estimating abundance (using line transect and mark recapture) and spatial modelling.

Course Outline
The workshops will cover issues in, and methods for, studying marine mammal habitat use and abundance using spatial modelling of survey data. The workshops will comprise lectures (including presentation of case studies), demonstrations, practical work on data processing and analysis, and discussions. The focus will be on practical hands-on application, and on understanding the problems that arise when conducting and analysing data from real studies, but the importance of understanding the statistical background will be emphasized.

Accommodation options for participants:
Esplanade Hotel Fremantle

Terrace Central B&B Hotel Seven minutes walk from the Esplanade Hotel

Backpackers Inn Six minutes walk to the Esplanade Hotel.

Pirates Backpackers Two minutes walk to the Esplanade Hotel.

Fremantle Village Caravan Park 3.5 kms from the Esplanade Hotel, 10 minutes by car or 20 minutes by bus and a short walk.

Callan Apartments a variety of apartments available close to Fremantle.

Port Lincoln:

Port Lincoln Tourist Park located right next to the Lincoln Marine Science Centre where the workshop will take place.

Port Lincoln Cabin Park Approximately 20 minute walk to Lincoln Marine Science Centre.

Hilton Motel Approximately 25 minute walk to Lincoln Marine Science Centre.

Contact Information

Western Australia Workshop:
Dr. Lars Bejder

Murdoch University
Cetacean Research Unit
Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research

South Australia Workshop:
Dr. Guido J. Parra
Flinders University
Cetacean Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution Lab, School of Biological Sciences.
+61 8 8683-2576


Introductory items
General introduction to workshop

Introduction to spatial modelling: from dots on a map to predicted surfaces
Introduction to the analytical framework

Types of data
Surveys (effort, sightings, sighting conditions, distance data, double platform data)
Environmental data (locational, physiographic, biological, anthropogenic)
Data processing/organisation
Survey data (effort segments with associated sighting conditions, sightings and environmental covariates; sightings associated with sighting conditions to estimate probability of detection)
Environmental data (constructing and populating a grid; GIS)

GLMs and GAMs
Autocorrelation in survey data (spatial/temporal/serial)
Colinearity (correlation) among environmental covariates
Model selection (AIC, other diagnostics)
Model evaluation (e.g. cross-validation)
Estimating precision (bootstrapping)
Estimating detection probability (models, model selection, goodness of fit)

Using the results
Increasing ecological understanding (species-habitat relationships; limitations)
Informing conservation and management (MPA selection; monitoring changing habitat use)
Making maps
New and existing projects
Presentations and discussions

Practical work
Data collection, processing and organisation, GIS

Fitting models in R; prediction; estimating precision
Using DISTANCE to fit the detection function
Using DISTANCE for spatial modelling
Generation of maps using GIS

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