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A Roadmap for Multi-Species Monitoring Efforts

February 28, 2020

A new analysis of 92 studies from 27 countries suggests that many recent multi-species studies of wildlife communities often incorrectly use the available analytical tools and methods. Northeast CASC Research Ecologist Toni Lyn Morelli and co-authors reviewed the recent literature on the use of multi-species models and provide some best practices for designing these types of studies.

Read the paper published in Ecography and a Science Daily article summarizing this work.

Recent technological and methodological advances, such as trail cameras and drones, have revolutionized our capacity to monitor wildlife. In the past, most wildlife monitoring studies focused on a single species. However, as landscape level changes such as climate change and land use change are increasingly impacting ecosystems, researchers are looking for efficient means of studying multiple species at once. This has resulted in the emergence of multi-species occupancy models (MSOMs). These models inherently must make certain types of assumptions, for example that the model is adequate for assessing each species present in a community.

A research team from UMass Amherst, including Northeast CASC Research Ecologist Toni Lyn Morelli, sought to review the literature on the use of MSOMs and evaluate the assumptions that MSOMs make, so they could identify the potential for biased or inaccurate results. By reviewing these past studies, the authors were then able to develop a set of criteria and best practices for researchers to consider when designing a community-scale monitoring study. Read the paper to learn more about their results and recommendations.

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Elk grazing at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa
Elk grazing at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa. (Credit: Danielle Brigida, USFWS. Public domain.)