William Link, Ph.D.
Dr. William Link has been Mathematical Statistician at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center since 1987.
- University of Massachusetts at Amherst; M.A. (1983), Ph.D. (1986). Thesis: Contributions to Reliability Theory and Survival Analysis. Advisors: Profs. Ramesh Korwar, Hui-Kuang Hsieh, Constantine Gatsonis, and David Hosmer
- Western Maryland College; B.A. (mathematics)
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; Laurel, Maryland. Mathematical Statistician. 1987-present
- University of Otago; Dunedin, New Zealand. Visiting Professor of Statistics. 2001
- Towson University; Towson, Maryland. Associate Professor of Mathematics. 1986-1987
Mark-recapture, count surveys, demographic analysis, Bayesian methods, multimodel inference
Science and Products
Our science portfolio includes the study and management of mammal populations, which can require the use of methods and analysis that incorporate the difficulty in detecting them – picture how hard it is to count and identify bats at dusk or estimate the number of mountain lions in an area.
Implementing Cross Validation Approaches for Model Selection and Evaluating Goodness of Fit in Complex Hierarchical Models
It is (relatively) easy to construct complex hierarchical models for analysis of the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), but deciding which model best describes population change is difficult. We are developing methods for model selection for BBS and other important survey data sets, and using them to refine our estimates of population change from this important survey.
The boreal forest in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada contains most of the breeding range of the American black duck (Anas rubripes). We collaborate with scientists from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to design and analyze waterfowl surveys in this large and often inaccessible area.
Designing and analyzing large-scale animal surveys is an important focus of our research. Although we conduct research into analysis methods for many surveys, the primary focus of this project is to conduct analyses and develop web-based summaries of data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS).
The Challenge: Much of wildlife research consists of the description of variation in data. Some of the variation results from spatial and temporal change in populations, while some results from biologically irrelevant sampling variation induced by the process of data collection. Distinguishing relevant from irrelevant variation is the first task of statistical analysis, but the job does not...
The Challenge: Wildlife science and management are guided by data, and it is unquestionably the case that the greatest success occurs when good data are analyzed by good statistical methods.
The Challenge: Free-roaming cats (Felis catus) are nonnative predators of small mammals, songbirds and gamebirds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. They are also competitors of native predators and vectors for diseases to human and wildlife. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is authorized to remove cats from National Wildlife Refuges. Presently cat trapping on Refuge lands is conducted...
One of the hallmarks of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) is the difficulty in predicting potentially toxic effects.Diclofenac is one such NSAID that devastated Asian vulture populations when they fed upon carcasses of livestock treated with the NSAID diclofenac.Because these drugs are widely used, we studied the potential hazard of diclofenac in New World vultures.
Analysis of population change and movement using robust design removal data
In capture-mark-reencounter studies, Pollock’s robust design combines methods for open populations with methods for closed populations. Open population features of the robust design allow for estimation of rates of death or permanent emigration, and closed population features enhance estimation of population sizes. We describe a similar design,...Link, William A.; Converse, Sarah J.; Yackel Adams, Amy A.; Hostetter, Nathan J.
Variation in the vital rates of an Antarctic marine predator: the role of individual heterogeneity
Variation in life‐history traits such as lifespan and lifetime reproductive output is thought to arise, in part, due to among‐individual differences in the underlying probabilities of survival and reproduction. However, the stochastic nature of demographic processes can also generate considerable variation in fitness‐related traits among otherwise...Paterson, J. Terrill; Rotella, Jay J.; Link, William A.; Garrott, Robert A.
On the reliability of N‐mixture models for count data
N‐mixture models describe count data replicated in time and across sites in terms of abundance N and detectability p. They are popular because they allow inference about N while controlling for factors that influence p without the need for marking animals. Using a capture–recapture perspective, we show that the loss of information that results...Barker, Richard J.; Schofield, Matthew J.; Link, William A.; Sauer, John R.
On the robustness of N‐mixture models
N‐mixture models provide an appealing alternative to mark–recapture models, in that they allow for estimation of detection probability and population size from count data, without requiring that individual animals be identified. There is, however, a cost to using the N‐mixture models: inference is very sensitive to the model's assumptions. We...Link, William A.; Schofield, Matthew R.; Barker, Richard J.; Sauer, John R.
Model selection for the North American Breeding Bird Survey: A comparison of methods
The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) provides data for >420 bird species at multiple geographic scales over 5 decades. Modern computational methods have facilitated the fitting of complex hierarchical models to these data. It is easy to propose and fit new models, but little attention has been given to model selection. Here, we discuss...Link, William A.; Sauer, John R.; Niven, Daniel
The first 50 years of the North American Breeding Bird Survey
The vision of Chandler (Chan) S. Robbins for a continental-scale omnibus survey of breeding birds led to the development of the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). Chan was uniquely suited to develop the BBS. His position as a government scientist had given him experience with designing and implementing continental-scale surveys, his...Sauer, John R.; Ziolkowski, David; Pardieck, Keith L.; Smith, Adam C.; Hudson, Marie-Anne R.; Rodriguez, Vicente; Berlanga, Humberto; Niven, Daniel; Link, William A.
Expanding the North American Breeding Bird Survey analysis to include additional species and regions
The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) contains data for >700 bird species, but analyses often focus on a core group of ∼420 species. We analyzed data for 122 species of North American birds for which data exist in the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) database but are not routinely analyzed on the BBS Summary and Analysis...Sauer, John R.; Niven, Daniel; Pardieck, Keith L.; Ziolkowski, David; Link, William A.
The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966 - 2015
This website presents population change information for more than 400 species of North American birds, as estimated from the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Estimates of trend (interval-specific estimates of population change), annual indices of abundance, and maps of abundance and population change for these species are presented for a...Sauer, John; Niven, Daniel; Hines, James; Ziolkowski, David; Pardieck, Keith L.; Fallon, J.E.; Link, William
Bayesian cross-validation for model evaluation and selection, with application to the North American Breeding Bird Survey
The analysis of ecological data has changed in two important ways over the last 15 years. The development and easy availability of Bayesian computational methods has allowed and encouraged the fitting of complex hierarchical models. At the same time, there has been increasing emphasis on acknowledging and accounting for model uncertainty....Link, William A.; Sauer, John R.
Tarangire revisited: Consequences of declining connectivity in a tropical ungulate population
The hyper-abundance of migratory wildlife in many ecosystems depends on maintaining access to seasonally available resources. In Eastern and Southern Africa, land-use change and a loss of connectivity have coincided with widespread declines in the abundance and geographic range of ungulate populations. Using photographic capture-mark-recapture, we...Morrison, Thomas A.; Link, William A.; Newmark, William D.; Foley, Charles A.H.; Bolger, Douglas T.
Individual heterogeneity in growth and age at sexual maturity: A gamma process analysis of capture–mark–recapture data
Knowledge of organisms’ growth rates and ages at sexual maturity is important for conservation efforts and a wide variety of studies in ecology and evolutionary biology. However, these life history parameters may be difficult to obtain from natural populations: individuals encountered may be of unknown age, information on age at sexual maturity...Link, William A.; Hesed, Kyle Miller
Combining waterfowl and breeding bird survey data to estimate wood duck breeding population size in the Atlantic Flyway
We combined data from the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey (AFBWS) and the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) to estimate the number of wood ducks (Aix sponsa) in the United States portion of the Atlantic Flyway from 1993 to 2013. The AFBWS is a plot-based survey that covers most of the northern and central portions of the Flyway;...Zimmerman, Guthrie S.; Sauer, John R.; Fleming, Kathy; Link, William A.; Pamela R. Garrettson