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AEI 13:65-79 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00390

Validation of a sea lice dispersal model: principles from ecological agent-based models applied to aquatic epidemiology

Danielle Cantrell1,*, Raphael Vanderstichel2, Ramón Filgueira3, Jon Grant4, Crawford W. Revie1,5

1Department of Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, 550 University Ave, Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3, Canada
2College of Veterinary Medicine, Long Island University, 720 Northern Boulevard, Brookville, NY 11548, USA
3Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, 6299 South St, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada
4Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, 6299 South St, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada
5Department of Computing and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, 26 Richmond Street, Glasgow G1 1XQ, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Sea lice are one of the most economically costly and ecologically concerning problems facing the salmon farming industry. Here, we validated a coupled biological and physical model that simulated sea lice larvae dispersal from salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago (BA), British Columbia, Canada. We employed a concept from ecological agent-based modeling known as ‘pattern matching’, which identifies similar emergent properties in both the simulated and observed data to confirm that the simulation contained sufficient complexity to recreate the emergent properties of the system. One emergent property from the biophysical simulations was the existence of sub-networks of farms. These were also identified in the observed sea lice count data in this study using a space-time scan statistic (SaTScan) to identify significant spatio-temporal clusters of farms. Despite finding support for our simulation in the observed data, which consisted of over a decade’s worth of monthly sea lice abundance counts from salmon farms in the BA, the validation was not entirely straightforward. The complexities associated with validating this biophysical dispersal simulation highlight the need to further develop validation techniques for agent-based models in general, and biophysical simulations in particular, which often result in patchiness in their dispersal fields. The methods utilised in this validation could be adopted as a template for other epidemiological dispersal models, particularly those related to aquaculture, which typically have robust disease monitoring data collection plans in place.


KEY WORDS: Biophysical modeling · Validation · Sea lice · Epidemiological modeling · Broughton Archipelago · Scan statistics · Pattern matching


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Cite this article as: Cantrell D, Vanderstichel R, Filgueira R, Grant J, Revie CW (2021) Validation of a sea lice dispersal model: principles from ecological agent-based models applied to aquatic epidemiology. Aquacult Environ Interact 13:65-79. https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00390

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