Grain-dependent habitat selection in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
A fundamental problem in ecology is determining what factors affect the distribution of organisms across a landscape. Landscapes are by their nature heterogeneous and different habitat types confer different fitness benefits and costs to organisms that inhabit them. Ecologists are now aware of the importance of examining multiple spatial scales when designing studies quantifying animal resource selection. Scale of analysis has been shown to be important, since ecological pressures relating to the establishment of a home range differ from those relating to the use of resources within the home range. Most studies that examine multiple spatial scales examine the effect of modifying extent. Here, I examine the role of grain, an underappreciated component of scale, on our interpretation of habitat selection patterns and functional response. The goal of this thesis was to examine how grain size affects the interpretation of animal resource selection and functional response across multiple habitats. The perceptual range of an individual is known to change with habitat, therefore I hypothesized that resource selection and functional response would be both grain- and habitat-dependent, and that resource selection functions computed using different grains for different resources would be more predictive than models computed using only a single grain. I used GPS-collared white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to quantify resource selection functions at various grains and used generalized linear mixed effects modelling and multi-model inference techniques to examine how resource selection patterns changed with spatial scale across habitat types. I used selection ratios to examine functional response across grains. Model coefficients changed with grain and the strength of selection varied by habitat type. Multi-grain resource selection functions had lower AIC values and better cross-validation scores than single grain models. Functional response varied with scale and habitat type, displaying a unique relationship for each habitat. My results suggest that spatial memory and habitat-dependent perceptual range play an important role in resource selection. I conclude that the examination of multiple grains in the study of animal habitat selection and functional response represents a step forward in our ability to understand what drives the distribution and abundance of organisms.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorMcLoughlin, Philip D.
CommitteeBrook, Ryan K.; Hudson, Jeff
Copyright DateOctober 2014
resource selection functions