ADMB-based computer models are used globally to monitor populations of many endangered and commercially valuable species, to develop place-based resource management policies, and to reconstruct movements of animals tracked with electronic tags. ADMB- based stock assessments are critical to the management of commercially important fisheries stocks worth billions of dollars as well as ecologically sensitive species, in the United States and internationally. Every NOAA Fisheries Science Center uses the ADMB software.
In 2007, scientists from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Pelagic Fisheries Research Program and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, in consultation with scientists from NOAA Fisheries, created the non-profit ADMB Foundation with the goal of increasing the number of ADMB users by making the software free and open source.
During its first year of operation, the UH Pelagic Fisheries Research Program provided a home and logistical support for the Foundation. In partnership with NOAA Fisheries and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the Foundation drafted a proposal to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, to acquire the copyright to the ADMB software suite, in order to make it broadly and freely available to the research community. A generous grant from the Moore Foundation to NCEAS enabled an agreement with Otter Research Ltd. to open the ADMB source. ADMB has proven to be an essential tool for a wide range of statistical analysis, especially in fisheries stock assessments. With its recent emergence as free software, it is likely that ADMB will find application to a growing number of challenges in ecological modeling.
Many top fisheries scientists have testified to the importance of ADMB for creating sound stock and management models:
“Thanks to ADMB, it is no longer necessary to omit or transform data because they do not meet the arbitrary assumptions of some ‛canned’ software package. Instead, it is possible to include a diversity of data in statistical models. This power has revolutionized modeling of natural resources.” Dr. John Sibert, Manager, Pelagic Fisheries Research Program, University of Hawaii.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the scientific assessment of many fisheries would grind to a halt without ADMB. There are hundreds of other applications for this tool that will undoubtedly benefit greatly by making it a public piece of software.” Professor Ray Hilborn, School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, University of Washington.
“ADMB has empowered an entire generation of fishery stock assessment scientists.” Dr. Richard Methot, Senior Scientist for Assessments, NOAA Fisheries.
“Without ADMB, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission would be unable to conduct the sophisticated [tuna stock] assessments that it currently does.” Dr. Mark Maunder, a Senior Scientist at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.
Creation of the public download web site is only the first step in making all aspects of ADMB publicly available. Over the next year, a team of software developers will improve documentation of the computer code with the goal of making ADMB an open source enterprise. Releases of binaries (executable code) for the Windows and Linux operating systems are currently freely available, with a port to OS X to follow. Ultimately, the full source code will be available, enabling researchers to contribute their own enhancements and add-ons, using the code repository and support forums established on the ADMB project web site.
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation and cutting-edge scientific research around the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information, visit www.moore.org .