Random coeffcient models for complex longitudinal data
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Longitudinal data are common in biological research. However, real data sets vary considerably in terms of their structure and complexity and present many challenges for statistical modelling. This thesis proposes a series of methods using random coefficients for modelling two broad types of longitudinal response: normally distributed measurements and binary recapture data. Biased inference can occur in linear mixed-effects modelling if subjects are drawn from a number of unknown sub-populations, or if the residual covariance is poorly specified. To address some of the shortcomings of previous approaches in terms of model selection and flexibility, this thesis presents methods for: (i) determining the presence of latent grouping structures using a two-step approach, involving regression splines for modelling functional random effects and mixture modelling of the fitted random effects; and (ii) flexible of modelling of the residual covariance matrix using regression splines to specify smooth and potentially non-monotonic variance and correlation functions. Spatially explicit capture-recapture methods for estimating the density of animal populations have shown a rapid increase in popularity over recent years. However, further refinements to existing theory and fitting software are required to apply these methods in many situations. This thesis presents: (i) an analysis of recapture data from an acoustic survey of gibbons using supplementary data in the form of estimated angles to detections, (ii) the development of a multi-occasion likelihood including a model for stochastic availability using a partially observed random effect (interpreted in terms of calling behaviour in the case of gibbons), and (iii) an analysis of recapture data from a population of radio-tagged skates using a conditional likelihood that allows the density of animal activity centres to be modelled as functions of time, space and animal-level covariates.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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