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Rethinking Strategies for Estimating Demographic Parameters from Incomplete Data: Applications to Anthropological Demography and Conservation Biology

The standard means for estimating mortality schedules from incomplete data is based on relational life table methods attributable to Brass (e.g., 1974). I will discuss the extension of these methods with the application of simple conjugate Bayesian models for estimating mortality schedules. In the case of anthropological demography, the very robust features of the human life cycle suggest that informative prior distributions can be posited, greatly assisting estimation of mortality parameters from incomplete data. I also hope to apply these methods to the case of estimating demographic schedules from the hopelessly incomplete data on the mortality and reproductive biology of the great apes. Using estimates derived from this approach, I will attempt to quantify the risk of extinction faced by these species in the coming century.