Estimating population abundance using sightability models: R SightabilityModel package

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10 Scopus citations


Sightability models are binary logistic-regression models used to estimate and adjust for visibility bias in wildlife-population surveys (Steinhorst and Samuel 1989). Estimation proceeds in 2 stages: (1) Sightability trials are conducted with marked individuals, and logistic regression is used to estimate the probability of detection as a function of available covariates (e.g., visual obstruction, group size). (2) The fitted model is used to adjust counts (from future surveys) for animals that were not observed. A modified Horvitz- Thompson estimator is used to estimate abundance: counts of observed animal groups are divided by their inclusion probabilites (determined by plot-level sampling probabilities and the detection probabilities estimated from stage 1). We provide a brief historical account of the approach, clarifying and documenting suggested modifications to the variance estimators originally proposed by Steinhorst and Samuel (1989). We then introduce a new R package, Sightability Model, for estimating abundance using this technique. Lastly, we illustrate the software with a series of examples using data collected from moose (Alces alces) in northeastern Minnesota and mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) in Washington State.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Statistical Software
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Abundance estimation
  • Horvitz-thompson
  • Logistic regression
  • R
  • Sightability model
  • Survey

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