Ecologists often use samples from the age or stage structure of a population to make inferences about population-level processes and to parameterize matrix models. Typically, researchers make a simplifying assumption that age and stage classes are determined without error, when in fact some level of misclassification often can be expected. If unaccounted for, misclassification will lead to overly optimistic levels of precision and can cause biased estimates of age or stage structure. Although several studies have used information from known-age individuals to quantify errors in age or stage distribution, the problem of estimating the age or stage structure in face of such errors has received comparably little attention. In this paper, we describe a general statistical framework for estimating the true stage distribution of a sample when misclassification rates can be estimated. The estimation process requires auxiliary information on misclassification rates, such as data from individuals of known age. We analyze age-structured harvest records from black bears in Pennsylvania to illustrate how incorporating misclassification errors leads to changes in point estimates and provides a measure of precision.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics