• Simulating distance sampling to estimate nest abundance on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska

      Gallenberg, Elaine; Barry, Ron; Short, Margaret; Goddard, Scott; McIntyre, Julie (2020-05)
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently conducts annual surveys to estimate bird nest abundance on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. The current method involves intensive searching on large plots with the goal of finding every nest on the plot. Distance sampling is a well-established transect-based method to estimate density or abundance that accounts for imperfect detection of objects. It relies on estimating the probability of detecting an object given its distance from the transect line, or the detection function. Simulations were done using R to explore whether distance sampling methods on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta could produce reliable estimates of nest abundance. Simulations were executed both with geographic strata based on estimated Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri) nest densities and without stratification. Simulations with stratification where more effort was allotted to high density areas tended to be more precise, but lacked the property of pooling robustness and assumed stratum boundaries would not change over time. Simulations without stratification yielded estimates with relatively low bias and variances comparable to current estimation methods. Distance sampling appears to be a viable option for estimating the abundance of nests on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.