Generalised latent variable models for multivariate abundances in ecology

Date & time

11am–12pm 10 May 2018


College of Business and Economics, Lecture Theatre 2, Ground Floor, Building 26C, Kingsley St. ANU


Prof David Warton, University of New South Wales


 Patricia Dennis

Generalised linear latent variable models, factor analytical extensions of generalised linear models, are a natural tool for modelling non-Gaussian data when there are many correlated responses.

While these models have been used in the social sciences for some time, we have only recently started using them in ecology to analyse multivariate abundance data, i.e. abundance (or presence-absence) data across species and sites, with correlation in abundance across species because of species interaction and other reasons.

This talk describes a range of applications of this model in ecology, and some innovations in model-fitting that we developed to accelerate model fitting and tailor models to ecological data.
Applications of the model include estimating patterns of residual correlation across species, ordination, multivariate inference about environmental effects and environment-by-trait interactions, accounting for missing predictors, and improving predictions in situations where one can leverage knowledge of some species to predict others.

Some of these are important applications for which there is currently no competing method in ecology. Innovations in model-fitting include the use of variational approximations and the TMB platform, to accelerate model-fitting by orders of magnitude and enabling the fitting of large metagenomics datasets in minutes rather than days.
Lunch will follow the seminar in the Glass Room, Level 4, CBE building.

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