NMSUnews: NMSU Ph.D. student aids in black bear research


Published on May 9, 2014
This video is about black bear research throughout New Mexico.

COB Editor’s Note: Matt Gould (Biology Ph.D. Research Assistant) discusses his black bear research — estimating the density and abundance of black bears in New Mexico. These density estimates will be provided to the NM Department of Game and Fish.

William R. Gould (no relation to Matt Gould) is a College of Business Professor in Applied Statistics who serves on Matt’s research committee. Bill explains the role of statistics in wildlife research (see article below).

May 12, 2014, by William R. Gould; Professor, Applied Statistics, Economics, Applied Statistics & International Business Department; via email

William R. (Bill) Gould, Professor in Applied Statistics. (Submitted photo)

William R. (Bill) Gould, Professor in Applied Statistics. (Submitted photo)

Applied Statistics faculty serve on numerous graduate student research committees because most research today requires sophisticated statistical designs and/or analyses. Several of our members serve on more than 16 committees each year.*

I am currently a co-PI or collaborator on six projects that are focused on cranes, lesser prairie chicken, pupfish, and bear. On the latter, we are using (non-invasive) capture-recapture methods to estimate abundance and density. These methods are useful for almost any situation where the detection of a unit of interest is imperfect.

We can estimate abundance using the proportion of marked animals in a sample and equating that to the proportion of the known number (or estimated number if mortality occurs) of marked animals in the population relative to the entire population size.

Traditionally, capture-recapture methods were used by capturing, marking and recapturing marked and unmarked animals.

Technology and statistical machinery now make it possible to identify animals using camera traps, genetic samples, and distinctive features (stripes, scars, etc.) on animals to identify them individually.

An overview of this research area is in Gould and Kendall (2012, Encyclopedia of Environmetrics).

I will be going out in the field with Matt sometime this summer.

*Excerpt from the COB Activity Report: May 2, 2014:

For the Applied Statistics faculty it has been another busy year working with graduate students from across the university:

  • Robert Steiner served on 6 PhD and 18 masters committees this year.
  • Charlotte Gard served on 6 PhD and 14 masters committees this year.
  • Dawn VanLeeuwen served on 6 PhD and 20 masters committees this year.
  • Bill Gould served on 3 PhD and 10 masters committees this year.
  • Shannon Knapp has served on 5 graduate committees in her first year.
  • David Daniel served on 17 graduate committees this past year.

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