[MARMAM] New paper on agent-based modelling of bottlenose dolphin behavioral dynamics and interactions with tourism

Enrico Pirotta pirotts at libero.it
Wed Apr 2 01:48:09 PDT 2014

Dear MARMAM colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that the following paper has been made available 

Enrico Pirotta, Leslie New, John Harwood, David Lusseau (2014). Activities, 
motivations and disturbance: An agent-based model of bottlenose dolphin 
behavioral dynamics and interactions with tourism in Doubtful Sound, New 
Zealand. Ecological Modelling 282: 44–58. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2014.03.009

Agent-based models can be used to simulate spatially-explicit animal 
behavioral processes and their interactions with human activities. This 
approach can be applied to predict the potential effects of such activities on 
animal behavior and individual condition that could lead, in turn, to 
alterations in vital rates and, ultimately, long-term population change. We 
developed an agent-based model to describe the effect of interactions with 
tourism on the behavior of bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful Sound (New Zealand).
The model describes the temporal variation of the individuals’ hidden 
motivational states, the way in which these states interact to determine the 
activity of groups of dolphins, and the feedback influence of the group’s 
activity on individual motivations and condition. Moreover, it realistically 
simulates the movement of dolphin groups in the fiord. The model also includes 
tour boat behavior, incorporating the way key geographical features attract 
these boats. In addition to tourism effects, we accounted for the spatial 
heterogeneity in both dolphin activities and shark predation risk. The final 
simulation platform generated a realistic representation of the social and 
behavioral dynamics of the dolphin and boat populations, as well as observed 
patterns of disturbance. We describe how this tool could be used to ensure 
effective management of the interactions between anthropogenic factors and 
bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful Sound, and how it could be adapted to evaluate 
the effects of human disturbance on other comparable populations. We then 
fitted the dolphin component of the model to data collected during visual 
studies of the Doubtful Sound dolphin population between 2000 and 2002 using a 
Bayesian multi-state modeling framework. However, when the parameter estimates 
from this fitting process were used in the agent-based model, biologically 
realistic representations of the population were not generated. Our results 
suggest that visual data from group follows alone are not sufficient to inform 
such agent-based models. Information on the spatial structure of the animals’ 
activities and an appropriate measure of individual condition are also required 
for successful model parameterization.

KEY WORDS: Agent-based model, animal behavior, Bayesian, human disturbance, 
multi-state model, wildlife tourism

A PDF copy of the work can be downloaded from: http://www.sciencedirect.

Please do not hesitate to contact me for any question regarding our work.

Best Regards,
Enrico Pirotta

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