Disentangling monitoring programs: design, analysis, and application considerations

William M. Janousek, Beth A. Hahn, Victoria J. Dreitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Monitoring programs are an essential tool for assessing and informing conservation efforts but the methods used to gather monitoring data directly influence results. This presents a challenge to conservation professionals when deciding on existing data to inform a given question. We illustrate the challenges of using monitoring data by comparing population trends from two large-scale avian monitoring programs in the western United States: the Breeding Bird Survey and Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions programs. We used publicly available data to compare trend trajectory between 2008 and 2015 for 148 species across Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming. Trends were inconsistent for 62% of the comparisons, with species having opposite trends in 21 cases. The inconsistencies found within our species comparisons reflect the inherent differences between program sampling design and analytical approach. Periodically revisiting how and why we monitor natural resources is necessary to advance conservation and management as the lessons learned from long-standing programs guide the development of more recent efforts. Our results emphasize that prior to management actions and policy decisions, managers must be aware of both the sampling design and appropriate ecological inference of any monitoring program.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01922
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • adaptive management
  • decision-making
  • imperfect detection
  • monitoring
  • population trend
  • sampling frame


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