Inference for stable isotope mixing models: A study of the diet of dunlin

Erik Barry Erhardt, Edward J. Bedrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stable isotope sourcing is used to estimate proportional contributions of sources to a mixture, such as in the analysis of animal diets and plant nutrient use. Statistical methods for inference on the diet proportions by using stable isotopes have focused on the linear mixing model. Existing frequentist methods assume that the diet proportion vector can be uniquely solved for in terms of one or two isotope ratios. We develop large sample methods that apply to an arbitrary number of isotope ratios, assuming that the linear mixing model has a unique solution or is overconstrained. We generalize these methods to allow temporal modelling of the population mean diet, assuming that isotope ratio response data are collected over time. The methodology is motivated by a study of the diet of dunlin, a small migratory seabird.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)579-593
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series C: Applied Statistics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal ecology
  • Estimating equations
  • Least squares
  • Resource utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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