Thursday, March 21, 2013

White-tailed Deer Population Simulation Project

I would like to create a hypothetical model showing the spread of the deer population in Vermont if hunting was prohibited. The starting point would be a map of Vermont showing the current areas populated with deer and then I would have to do some sort of calculation using the current effect of hunting on the deer population and then a calculation with zero effect from hunting (because hypothetically there is no hunting). The output would then be a map of the population in however many years with the continued amount of hunting we have today and another map of the population in that many years without any hunting. 

After some difficult research on finding an input map for the current deer population in Vermont, I have run across a picture of a map of the U.S. with the white-tailed deer densities on the QDMA website. So I am hopefully in the process of getting my input map for my model. I then turned my research on similar publications done in Dinamica to figure out what my model should consist of. I looked at the publication called “Spatially explicit agent based model of rabbit population” which is a similar study on the spread of rabbit populations. This publication was a little confusing, but I was able to determine that my model also should be a spatially explicit (i.e. mimics environmental phenomena across space and time) agent based model (i.e. attempts to reproduce individual process of movement, behavior, birth, growth, and death according to a set of information). The authors took into account many attributes and parameters about the rabbits such as their : vision, energy spent to survive, maximum absorption of energy, energy spent to move, average lifespan, initial amount of calories, initial population, and maximum birth rate. When it comes to the landscape, they had it represented as a cell grid in which each cell contains a certain amount of resource. The attributes associated with the cells are the maximum capacity of resources (which are represented as the initial values on the landscape map) and the recovery rate of the landscape.

In the case of my project, I think I need to take similar if not the same attributes and parameters into consideration when trying to determine what a white-tailed deer population would look like without any hunting pressure. I also think that I would need to have some information on the suitability of the habitat in Vermont for deer in order to figure out how the population would spread. In the case of white-tailed deer, the resources needed to survive would be soft mast for foraging and wintering areas (which I found a map of in VT on the VT fish and wildlife website).  I think if those wintering areas have already been established then I can count those areas as suitable deer habitat for my model.

It is clear that much more research needs to be done on this project and it is much more complicated than I was thinking it would be. There is a lot of data that needs to go into this model in order to create a simulation of a spreading population and many parameters I hadn’t even thought of.

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