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Methods in Ecology and Evolution

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Department or Program


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agent-based, dispersal, eBird status and trends, movement model, pathogen, phenology


Rapid advances in the field of movement ecology have led to increasing insight into both the population-level abundance patterns and individual-level behaviour of migratory species. Despite this progress, research questions that require scaling individual-level understanding of the behaviour of migrating organisms to the population level remain difficult to investigate. To bridge this gap, we introduce a generalizable framework for training full-annual cycle individual-based models of migratory movements by combining information from tracking studies and species occurrence records. Focusing on migratory birds, we call this method: Models of Individual Movement of Avian Species (MIMAS). We implement MIMAS to design individual-based models of avian migration that are trained using previously published weekly occurrence maps and fit via Approximate Bayesian Computation. MIMAS models leverage individual- and population-level information to faithfully represent continental-scale migration patterns. Models can be trained successfully for species even when little existing individual-level data is available for parameterization by relying on population-level information. In contrast to existing mathematical models of migration, MIMAS explicitly represents and estimates behavioural attributes of migrants. MIMAS can additionally be used to simulate movement over consecutive migration seasons, and models can be easily updated or validated as new empirical data on migratory behaviours becomes available. MIMAS can be applied to a variety of research questions that require representing individual movement at large scales. We demonstrate three applied uses for MIMAS: estimating population-specific migratory phenology, predicting the spatial patterns and magnitude of ectoparasite dispersal by migrants, and simulating the spread of a pathogen across the annual cycle of a migrant species. Currently, MIMAS can easily be used to build models for hundreds of migratory landbird species but can also be adapted in the future to build models of other types of migratory animals.


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© 2023 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.

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