SEER Lab PhD graduate, Lillian Morris, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks biologist Kelly Proffitt, and SEER Lab Director, Jason Blackburn recently published a paper on the methods for mapping and validating spatial outputs from resource selection functions in the Journal of Applied Geography.
Predicting the spatial distribution of animals is an important and widely used tool with applications in wildlife management, conservation, and population health. Wildlife telemetry technology coupled with the availability of spatial data and GIS software have facilitated advancements in species distribution modeling. There are also challenges related to these advancements including the accurate and appropriate implementation of species distribution modeling methodology. Resource Selection Function (RSF) modeling is a commonly used approach for understanding species distributions and habitat usage, and mapping the RSF results can enhance study findings and make them more accessible to researchers and wildlife managers. Currently, there is no consensus in the literature on the most appropriate method for mapping RSF results, methods are frequently not described, and mapping approaches are not always related to accuracy metrics. We conducted a systematic review of the RSF literature to summarize the methods used to map RSF outputs, discuss the relationship between mapping approaches and accuracy metrics, performed a case study on the implications of employing different mapping methods, and provide recommendations as to appropriate mapping techniques for RSF studies. We found extensive variability in methodology for mapping RSF results. Our case study revealed that the most commonly used approaches for mapping RSF results led to notable differences in the visual interpretation of RSF results, and there is a concerning disconnect between accuracy metrics and mapping methods. We make 5 recommendations for researchers mapping the results of RSF studies, which are focused on carefully selecting and describing the method used to map RSF studies, and relating mapping approaches to accuracy metrics.