Correlation and studies of habitat selection: Problem, red herring or opportunity?

John Fieberg, Jason Matthiopoulos, Mark Hebblewhite, Mark S. Boyce, Jacqueline L. Frair

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


With the advent of new technologies, animal locations are being collected at ever finer spatiotemporal scales. We review analytical methods for dealing with correlated data in the context of resource selection, including post hoc variance inflation techniques, 'two-stage' approaches based on models fit to each individual, generalized estimating equations and hierarchical mixed-effects models. These methods are applicable to a wide range of correlated data problems, but can be difficult to apply and remain especially challenging for use-availability sampling designs because the correlation structure for combinations of used and available points are not likely to follow common parametric forms. We also review emerging approaches to studying habitat selection that use finescale temporal data to arrive at biologically based definitions of available habitat, while naturally accounting for autocorrelation by modelling animal movement between telemetry locations. Sophisticated analyses that explicitly model correlation rather than consider it a nuisance, like mixed effects and state-space models, offer potentially novel insights into the process of resource selection, but additional work is needed to make them more generally applicable to large datasets based on the use-availability designs. Until then, variance inflation techniques and two-stage approaches should offer pragmatic and flexible approaches to modelling correlated data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2233-2244
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1550
StatePublished - Jul 27 2010


FundersFunder number
Natural Environment Research Councilsmru10001


    • Generalized estimating equation
    • Generalized linear mixed model
    • Hierarchical model
    • Resource-selection function
    • Telemetry
    • Use-availability


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