Accounting for animal movement in estimation of resource selection functions: Sampling and data analysis

James D. Forester, Hae Kyung Im, Paul J. Rathouz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

252 Scopus citations


Patterns of resource selection by animal populations emerge as a result of the behavior of many individuals. Statistical models that describe these population-level patterns of habitat use can miss important interactions between individual animals and characteristics of their local environment; however, identifying these interactions is difficult. One approach to this problem is to incorporate models of individual movement into resource selection models. To do this, we propose a model for step selection functions (SSF) that is composed of a resource-independent movement kernel and a resource selection function (RSF). We show that standard case-control logistic regression may be used to fit the SSF; however, the sampling scheme used to generate control points (i.e., the definition of availability) must be accommodated. We used three sampling schemes to analyze simulated movement data and found that ignoring sampling and the resource-independent movement kernel yielded biased estimates of selection. The level of bias depended on the method used to generate control locations, the strength of selection, and the spatial scale of the resource map. using empirical or parametric methods to sample control locations produced biased estimates under stronger selection; however, we show that the addition of a distance function to the analysis substantially reduced that bias. Assuming a uniform availability within a fixed buffer yielded strongly biased selection estimates that could be corrected by including the distance function but remained inefficient relative to the empirical and parametric sampling methods. As a case study, we used location data collected from elk in Yellowstone National Park, USA, to show that selection and bias may be temporally variable. Because under constant selection the amount of bias depends on the scale at which a resource is distributed in the landscape, we suggest that distance always be included as a covariate in SSF analyses. This approach to modeling resource selection is easily implemented using common statistical tools and promises to provide deeper insight into the movement ecology of animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3554-3565
Number of pages12
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Animal movement
  • Case-control
  • Conditional logistic regression
  • Elk
  • Relocation kernel
  • Resource selection function
  • Telemetry
  • Yellowstone


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