Standard Article

Distance Sampling

  1. Stephen T. Buckland1,
  2. David R. Anderson2,
  3. Kenneth P. Burnham2,
  4. Jeffrey L. Laake3

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/0470011815.b2a16019

Encyclopedia of Biostatistics

Encyclopedia of Biostatistics

How to Cite

Buckland, S. T., Anderson, D. R., Burnham, K. P. and Laake, J. L. 2005. Distance Sampling. Encyclopedia of Biostatistics. 2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of St Andrews, Fife, UK

  2. 2

    Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

  3. 3

    National Marine Fisheries, Seattle, WA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Distance sampling covers a range of methods in which distances of detected objects (usually animals) from a line or point are recorded, from which object density or abundance is estimated. The most widely used methods are line transect sampling and point transect sampling. Objects on the line or point are usually assumed to be detected with certainty, and a detection function, representing probability of detection as a function of distance from the line or point, is modeled. This allows estimation of the proportion of objects missed within surveyed strips or circles, extending a specified distance from the line or point. Appropriate survey design allows the resulting object density estimates to be extrapolated to the full survey region, to yield estimates of object abundance.


  • line transect sampling;
  • point transect sampling;
  • sightings surveys