Thursday, December 31, 2015

Noah Strycker - A Big Year Ends

I find myself saying the same thing every year on December 31st..."my how the year has flown by." And 2015 was no exception. Of particular personal interest in 2015 was following Noah Strycker's global big year, which seemed like only yesterday when he started.

Noah's finally tally, as his year ended several hours ago in India, was 6,042 species. This total far exceeds the previous record of 4,341 species by 1,701 species. For those who have been reading this blog, I hope you've enjoyed it. As a final post, to wrap up the year, I've added the four primary figures I've been using to illustrate Noah's annual progress, below. For anyone who thinks they're up for challenging Noah's record (and according to Noah's last post on Birding Without Borders, Day 365, there already is someone trying in 2016), perhaps the figures below can be used as a wee bit of insight for where potential improvements could be made. As I first posted when I started following Noah's trek, avoiding diminishing returns is paramount to success...don't spend too long in one area, and don't spend much time in areas with little return. For example, could Noah have improved his year-end tally by not birding in Antarctica, and instead visited another area that would have had higher returns in the long run? These sorts of questions may remain unanswered forever, but the stories of future record challengers, with the gained experience of their predecessors, will be a good indication. And let's not forget...a bit of luck can go along way.

A nearly perfect linear trend in species' accumulation. This is how records are made! 

The highs and lows of a year's birding around the world...minimal diminishing returns! 

Relative to previous record holders, Noah started out slow in January...the rest of the year was remarkable. 

  Month-over-month the number of new species added was highly variable, but the long-term trend was gradual diminishing returns.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Noah Strycker: T-minus 21 days

Hard to believe, but Noah has been birding the globe, almost non-stop, for 344 days! I wasn't going to do another stats update, but at the request of one reader, here's a brief but updated summary.

The linear trend I've been using since starting this series of posts still maintains a very strong fit to Noah's species accumulation data. Even with the addition of data through November and early December, the addition of new species continues to show no sign of plateauing. In fact, beginning December 1st, Noah's species accumulation has seen a sudden resurgence, and was bolstered quite remarkably by his second biggest tally of new species (81 species) since January 14. Using the linear regression equation presented in the figure below, Noah's estimated year-end tally is 6,065 species (+/- a surprisingly small margin of error given the very good data fit; R-square = 0.99).

The figure below illustrates the gap between Noah's tally, and the same year-to-date tally of previous record holders Ruth Miller and Alan Davies. From about the end of March Noah maintained a relatively constant rate of gap-widening, with a small dip occurring only on September 10 and November 13. As of December 10, Noah can do no worse than to exceed the previous record by 1,366 species; if he hits 6,000 species the difference will be a whopping 1,659 species!

The figure below illustrates the daily tally of new species added to Noah's year list. The long term trend has been declining gradually (defined by linear trend line), but the 7-day trend (non-linear trend line) tells an interesting story. Perhaps most interesting is the recent spike occurring in the first week of December; no doubt a direct result of landing on a new continent (Australia).

In my previous post I attempted to take into account the very small rate of diminishing returns to add a small correction to the linear trend prediction. The diminishing returns curve suggests Noah should average 16.19 species per day for the month of December. This would result in the addition of 340 new species in the remaining 21 days of December, for a grand total of 6,046 species; 19 species fewer than what is predicted by the linear trend alone.

To hit exactly 6,000 species Noah needs 293 more species, or 13.95 new species per day for the next 21 days. The end is near; good luck Noah.