A River Runs Through It

The Blackfoot River runs through Missoula, Montana, where I visited last week to attend a workshop at the University of Montana. The Blackfoot and its hills struck me as as a phenomenal setting for a college campus. Every day I enjoyed walking across campus, basking in the beautiful fall colors, and watching fly fisherman work the waters in the Blackfoot.

The workshop I participated in was meant to improve my statistical modeling skills. The five-day course taught us the theory, methodology, and interpretation of integrated population models in a Bayesian framework. This relatively new technique is particularly exciting because it integrates multiple datasets on wild animal populations (mark-recapture data [to estimate survival], count data [to estimate trends in abundance], and fecundity data [to estimate recruitment]); by integrating these data, one can project abundance while estimating survival and fecundity patterns driving variation in population size. I’m back in Alabama now, and I am busy putting these new skills to use while modeling population demography and viability for Gopher Tortoises at our study sites in south Alabama!

I’m particularly thankful for Michael Schaub and Marc Kery for traveling all the way from Switzerland to teach the course. Their teaching style is so clear and concise, and I recommend their workshops for anyone interesting in Bayesian analysis. I learned a lot. But perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned was that I will never travel out West without my fly rod. The Blackfoot looked phenomenal, even in October, and I missed out on some prime fly-hurling time. Until the next trip!

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