Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Vermont
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Balantic, C., and T. M. Donovan. 2019. Dynamic wildlife occupancy models using automated acoustic monitoring data. Ecological Applications 29(3):e01854.


Automated acoustic monitoring of wildlife has been used to characterize populations of sound‐producing species across large spatial scales. However, false negatives and false positives produced by automated detection systems can compromise the utility of these data for researchers and land managers, particularly for research programs endeavoring to describe colonization and extinction dynamics that inform land use decision‐making. To investigate the suitability of automated acoustic monitoring for dynamic occurrence models, we simulated underlying occurrence dynamics, calling patterns, and the automated acoustic detection process for a hypothetical species under a range of scenarios. We investigated an automated species detection aggregation method that considered a suite of options for creating encounter histories. From these encounter histories, we generated parameter estimates and computed bias for occurrence, colonization, and extinction rates using a dynamic occupancy modeling framework that accounts for false positives via small amounts of manual confirmation. We were able to achieve relatively unbiased estimates for all three state parameters under all scenarios, even when the automated detection system was simulated to be poor, given particular encounter history aggregation choices. However, some encounter history aggregation choices resulted in unreliable estimates; we provide caveats for avoiding these scenarios. Given specific choices during the detection aggregation process, automated acoustic monitoring data may provide an effective means for tracking species occurrence, colonization, and extinction patterns through time, with the potential to inform adaptive management at multiple spatial scales.