Distance sampling software development plans

Posted 27 April 2020 by Len Thomas

This post provides an insight into our plans for development of both Windows and R-based software over the next few years.

We have available Windows software, Distance, which provides point-and-click access to a number of underlying design and analysis engines, some of which are written in R. The R packages are also freely available.

We recognize that many of our users are more comfortable using a graphic user interface, and we plan to continue supporting Distance for Windows for the foreseeable future. However, we do not plan to add any major new features to this software. We will continue to ensure that the software runs under current versions of Windows, that bugs are fixed, and that the R packages called by Distance for Windows work as they should. We plan on making around one release per year. Our next release, Distance 7.4, is planned for May 2020; it will contain no new features but the R packages included in the distribution will be compatible with the new version of R (4.0) released at the end of April.

The major focus of our development effort will be on our R packages.

Over the past year, we have made some major improvements to the Distance package, which provides a relatively simple interface for standard distance sampling analyses (see this feature comparison). We plan a new release, containing further enhancements, in July 2020.

We have a current project, Denmod, to develop enhanced methods and software tools for density surface modelling, and these will become available as updates to our dsm package, as well as to the underlying mrds detection function fitting package and some associated utility packages such as dsmextra. We plan a new release of dsm by the end of April 2020.

We are working on a new distance simulation package dsims that will be a replacement for our current package DSsim. One major advance is that the new package will link with our survey design package dssd, rather than relying on Distance for Windows (or some other software) to create the survey designs. It will have several other enhancements, including a major speed-up. The new dsims package will be available early in 2021.

We will continue to enhance and extend the suite of examples (often called vignettes) available to showcase the features of all our packages (https://examples.distancesampling.org/).

We hope you continue to find our software useful for your work – please do contact us with any comments or suggestions .