BioQUEST home page ESTEEM Home Math Association of American home

A common method used to estimate the population size of a species is the Mark-Recapture method. In a closed system, an initial sample is taken and marked in an identifiable way. The subjects are then released back into the environment to disperse among with the rest of the population. After the initial sample is given enough time to redistribute into the population, another sample is taken and the number of marked individuals is counted. Assuming that the system is closed and that the proportion of marked individuals is equal to that of the proportion of caught individuals, one may calculate the estimated population size. This single sample method is used for the Lincoln-Peterson, Bailey, and Modified. Other sampling methods include using multiple samples such as with Schnabel, Schumacher-Eschmeyer and Bayesian.


Jessie Panks, Beloit College
John R. Jungck, Beloit College

Published by: BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium


User Manuals and Curricular Materials
Popular Text Citations


Bayesian: Gazey, W. J. and Staley, M. J. 1986. Population Estimation from Mark-Recapture Experiments Using a Sequential Bayes Algorithm. Ecology, Vol. 67, No. 4, pp. 941-951.

Salamanders: L. Rose, Francis and Armentrout, Dede. 1974. Population Estimates of Ambystoma tigrinum Inhabiting Two Playa Lakes. The Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 43, No. 3. pp. 671-679.

Whiteley, Andrew R., Jennifer Woolf, Kathleen Kenneoy, David Oberbillig, and Carol Brewer. 2007. Classroom Mark-Recapture with Crickets. The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 69, No. 5, pp 292-297.

L. Pham, S. Boudreaux, S. Karhbet, B. Price, A. S. Ackleh, J. Carter, and N. Pal, Population estimates of Hyla cinerea (Schneider) in an urban environment. Southeastern Naturalist, 6 (2007), 203-216.

Education Research & Pedagogical Materials

Schumacher-Eschmeyer: Srivastava, Diane. (2007) Mark-Recapture. Powerpoint presentation.

Schnabel: Srivastava, Diane. (2007) Mark-Recapture. Powerpoint presentation.

Bayesian: O'Hara, Bob. (2007) Mark-Recapture the Bayesian Way. Powerpoint presentation.

Confidence Intervals: Ganter, Phil. (2007) Principles of Ecology


Panks Jessie , Jungck John R. () Mark-Recapture. A module of the Biological ESTEEM Collection, published by the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium. URL: