Estimating demographic parameters using hidden process dynamic models.
ABSTRACT Structured population models are widely used in plant and animal demographic studies to assess population dynamics. In matrix population models, populations are described with discrete classes of individuals (age, life history stage or size). To calibrate these models, longitudinal data are collected at the individual level to estimate demographic parameters. However, several sources of uncertainty can complicate parameter estimation, such as imperfect detection of individuals inherent to monitoring in the wild and uncertainty in assigning a state to an individual. Here, we show how recent statistical models can help overcome these issues. We focus on hidden process models that run two time series in parallel, one capturing the dynamics of the true states and the other consisting of observations arising from these underlying possibly unknown states. In a first case study, we illustrate hidden Markov models with an example of how to accommodate state uncertainty using Frequentist theory and maximum likelihood estimation. In a second case study, we illustrate state-space models with an example of how to estimate lifetime reproductive success despite imperfect detection, using a Bayesian framework and Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulation. Hidden process models are a promising tool as they allow population biologists to cope with process variation while simultaneously accounting for observation error.