Powell publishes book on parameter estimation for animal populations

Larkin Powell
Larkin Powell

Larkin Powell, professor of conservation biology and animal ecology, has recently published "Estimation of Parameters for Animal Populations: A Primer for the Rest of Us." The book features a foreword by SNR director John Carroll and provides an introduction to the logic behind analyses and sampling design for mark-recapture and survey efforts.

"I've been teaching a graduate course for 13 years on this topic, and I was asked to teach the course in Thailand in 2014," Powell said. "My experiences in Thailand and previously in Namibia taught me that there are students around the world who are in charge of conservation of some of the most endangered species on the planet, yet they cannot afford textbooks written in the U.S. And, more importantly, they often don't have the math skills to understand the high-level texts that biometricians write on the subject."

Powell's host in Thailand, George Gale, would go on to become the book's co-author. Gale is a lecturer and researcher at King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi in Bangkok.

The two were introduced by Carroll, who had previously taught the same course Powell taught in Thailand.

"John had written a more advanced textbook on the subject a few years ago, so he is known around the world by people who do this type of work," Powell said. "He was the perfect person to introduce the book."

Powell and Gale began working on the book during Gale's sabbatical, which he spent at UNL.

"He arrived in January 2015," Powell said. "By the time he left in April, we had the draft done."

The book underwent the review process throughout the summer, and was published in August.

"We wanted to show the logic behind the advanced statistical methods used in these types of analyses," Powell said. "It's fine to know an equation or to use a software program, but you should be able to explain to someone else why the analysis works with the data you have collected."

Although the book is aimed at students in introductory courses that teach performing analysis of mark-recapture and surveys of wildlife species, a secondary audience is professionals who need to read up on techniques as part of their continuing education.

Since students in this field tend to be visual learners, the book features many images to help illustrate the topics at hand, Powell said.

"A figure can open up the logic and bring understanding as they delve into the equations," he said. "So, the book is chock-full of diagrams, figures and photos to bring the subject to life. Personally, I enjoyed that part of the process more than any other – deciding what kind of figure was needed to explain a complex theory."

The book costs $17.50 and is available at http://go.unl.edu/hgkz. Chapters are also available for free by individual download at http://go.unl.edu/5ujw.

— Mekita Rivas, Natural Resources