• Open Access

Monitoring behavior: assessing population status with rapid behavioral assessment


  • Editor Phillip Levin

R. P. Wildermuth, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, 427 East Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85287-4601, USA. Tel: 480-727-9255. Fax: +480-965-2519. E-mail: robert.wildermuth@asu.edu


Despite years of effort from behavioral ecologists, animal behavior has not been fully integrated into the field of conservation biology. We propose a novel framework to join these fields through the use of demographic models. We present three strategies for incorporating behavior in demographic models, outline the costs of each strategy through decision analysis, and build on previous work in behavioral ecology and demography. We then provide practical recommendations for applying this framework to management programs. First, relevant behavioral mechanisms should be included in demographic models used for conservation decision making. Second, rapid behavioral assessment is a useful tool to approximate demographic parameters through regression of demographic phenomena on observations of related behaviors. Behaviorally estimated parameters may be included in population viability analysis for use in management. Finally, behavioral indices can be used as indicators of population trends. Rapid behavioral assessment holds promise as a cost-effective tool, but also represents a cost to model accuracy. We provide a framework for implementing rapid behavioral assessment through case studies of reproductive, foraging, and antipredator behaviors. We use a decision-theoretic approach to provide quantitative rules for identifying when metrics of animal behavior may be more meaningful than traditional population assessment.