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A guide to sampling design for GPS‐based studies of animal societies


He, Peng; Klarevas‐Irby, James A; Papageorgiou, Danai; Christensen, Charlotte; Strauss, Eli D; Farine, Damien R (2023). A guide to sampling design for GPS‐based studies of animal societies. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 14(8):1887-1905.

Abstract

GPS-based tracking is widely used for studying wild social animals. Much like traditional observational methods, using GPS devices requires making a number of decisions about sampling that can affect the robustness of a study's conclusions. For example, sampling fewer individuals per group across more distinct social groups may not be sufficient to infer group- or subgroup-level behaviours, while sampling more individuals per group across fewer groups limits the ability to draw conclusions about populations.
Here, we provide quantitative recommendations when designing GPS-based tracking studies of animal societies. We focus on the trade-offs between three fundamental axes of sampling effort: (1) sampling coverage—the number and allocation of GPS devices among individuals in one or more social groups; (2) sampling duration—the total amount of time over which devices collect data and (3) sampling frequency—the temporal resolution at which GPS devices record data.
We first test GPS tags under field conditions to quantify how these aspects of sampling design can affect both GPS accuracy (error in absolute positional estimates) and GPS precision (error in the estimate relative position of two individuals), demonstrating that GPS error can have profound effects when inferring distances between individuals. We then use data from whole-group tracked vulturine guineafowl Acryllium vulturinum to demonstrate how the trade-off between sampling frequency and sampling duration can impact inferences of social interactions and to quantify how sampling coverage can affect common measures of social behaviour in animal groups, identifying which types of measures are more or less robust to lower coverage of individuals. Finally, we use data-informed simulations to extend insights across groups of different sizes and cohesiveness.
Based on our results, we are able to offer a range of recommendations on GPS sampling strategies to address research questions across social organizational scales and social systems—from group movement to social network structure and collective decision-making.
Our study provides practical advice for empiricists to navigate their decision-making processes when designing GPS-based field studies of animal social behaviours, and highlights the importance of identifying the optimal deployment decisions for drawing informative and robust conclusions.

Abstract

GPS-based tracking is widely used for studying wild social animals. Much like traditional observational methods, using GPS devices requires making a number of decisions about sampling that can affect the robustness of a study's conclusions. For example, sampling fewer individuals per group across more distinct social groups may not be sufficient to infer group- or subgroup-level behaviours, while sampling more individuals per group across fewer groups limits the ability to draw conclusions about populations.
Here, we provide quantitative recommendations when designing GPS-based tracking studies of animal societies. We focus on the trade-offs between three fundamental axes of sampling effort: (1) sampling coverage—the number and allocation of GPS devices among individuals in one or more social groups; (2) sampling duration—the total amount of time over which devices collect data and (3) sampling frequency—the temporal resolution at which GPS devices record data.
We first test GPS tags under field conditions to quantify how these aspects of sampling design can affect both GPS accuracy (error in absolute positional estimates) and GPS precision (error in the estimate relative position of two individuals), demonstrating that GPS error can have profound effects when inferring distances between individuals. We then use data from whole-group tracked vulturine guineafowl Acryllium vulturinum to demonstrate how the trade-off between sampling frequency and sampling duration can impact inferences of social interactions and to quantify how sampling coverage can affect common measures of social behaviour in animal groups, identifying which types of measures are more or less robust to lower coverage of individuals. Finally, we use data-informed simulations to extend insights across groups of different sizes and cohesiveness.
Based on our results, we are able to offer a range of recommendations on GPS sampling strategies to address research questions across social organizational scales and social systems—from group movement to social network structure and collective decision-making.
Our study provides practical advice for empiricists to navigate their decision-making processes when designing GPS-based field studies of animal social behaviours, and highlights the importance of identifying the optimal deployment decisions for drawing informative and robust conclusions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecological Modeling, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 August 2023
Deposited On:12 Oct 2022 11:45
Last Modified:27 Jun 2024 01:40
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:2041-210X
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210x.13999
Project Information:
  • : FunderAlexander von Humboldt-Stiftung
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID850859
  • : Project TitleECOLBEH - The Ecology of Collective Behaviour
  • : FunderMax-Planck-Gesellschaft
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPCEFP3_187058
  • : Project TitleThe building blocks of complex animal societies
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)