Computational Ecology and Software, 2011, 1(1): 49-54
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Short Communication

Evaluating a Bayesian approach to improve accuracy of individual photographic identification methods using ecological distribution data

Richard Stafford , Jane R. Lloyd
Department of Natural and Social Sciences, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, UK

Received 26 February 2011; Accepted 18 March 2011; Published online 1 April 2011

Photographic identification of individual organisms can be possible from natural body markings. Data from photo-ID can be used to estimate important ecological and conservation metrics such as population sizes, home ranges or territories. However, poor quality photographs or less well-studied individuals can result in a non-unique ID, potentially confounding several similar looking individuals. Here we present a Bayesian approach that uses known data about previous sightings of individuals at specific sites as priors to help assess the problems of obtaining a non-unique ID. Using a simulation of individuals with different confidence of correct ID we evaluate the accuracy of Bayesian modified (posterior) probabilities. However, in most cases, the accuracy of identification decreases. Although this technique is unsuccessful, it does demonstrate the importance of computer simulations in testing such hypotheses in ecology.

Keywords Bayesian statistics; photo-ID; prior knowledge; site fidelity.

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