Meta-analysis of animal movement using state-space models

Ian D. Jonsen*, Ransom A. Myers, Joanna Mills Flemming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

108 Citations (Scopus)


The study of animal movement and behavior is being revolutionized by technology, such as satellite tags and harmonic radar, that allows us to track the movements of individual animals. However, our ability to analyze and model such data has lagged behind the sophisticated collection methods. We review problems with current methods and suggest a more powerful and flexible approach, state-space modeling, and we illustrate how these models can be posed in a meta-analytic framework so that information from individual trajectories may be combined optimally. State-space models enable us to deal with the complexity of modeling animals interacting with their environment but, unlike other methods, they allow simultaneous estimation of measurement error and process noise that are inherent in animal-trajectory data. A Bayesian framework allows us to incorporate important prior information when available and also allows meta-analytic techniques to be incorporated in a straightforward fashion. Meta-analysis enables both individual and broader-level inference from observations of multiple individual pathways. Our approach is powerful because it allows researchers to test hypotheses regarding animal movement, to connect theoretical models to data, and to use modern likelihood-based estimation techniques, all under a single statistical framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3055-3063
Number of pages9
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal movement, analysis of tracking data
  • Bayesian models, hierarchical
  • Behavior
  • Dispersal
  • MCMC (Markov chain Monte Carlo) methods
  • Measurement error
  • Meta-analysis of animal movement
  • Migration
  • Process noise
  • State-space models
  • WinBUGs analysis


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