Durban, J.W. & Elston, D.A. (2005) Mark-recapture with occasion and individual effects: abundance estimation through Bayesian model selection in a fixed dimensional parameter space. Journal of Agricultural, Biological & Environmental Statistics 10: 291-305


We present a Bayesian mark–recapture method for explicitly communicating uncertainty about the size of a closed population where capture probabilities vary across both individuals and sampling occasions. Heterogeneity is modeled hierarchically using a continuous logistic-Normal model to specify the capture probabilities for both individuals that are captured on at least one occasion and individuals that are never captured and so remain undetected. Inference about how many undetected individuals to include in the model is accomplished through a Bayesian model selection procedure using MCMC, applied to a product space of possible models for different numbers of undetected individuals. Setting the estimation problem in a fixed dimensional parameter space enables the model selection procedure to be performed using the freely available WinBUGS software. The outcome of inference is a full “posterior” probability distribution for the population size parameter. We demonstrate this method through an example involving real mark–recapture data.

WinBUGS code for the models used in this paper available for download here: WinBUGS.