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Spatial Regression and Gaussian Process BART

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Spatial regression is one of the central topics in spatial statistics. Based on the goals, interpretation or prediction, spatial regression models can be classified into two categories, linear mixed regression models and nonlinear regression models. This dissertation explored these models

Spatial regression is one of the central topics in spatial statistics. Based on the goals, interpretation or prediction, spatial regression models can be classified into two categories, linear mixed regression models and nonlinear regression models. This dissertation explored these models and their real world applications. New methods and models were proposed to overcome the challenges in practice. There are three major parts in the dissertation.

In the first part, nonlinear regression models were embedded into a multistage workflow to predict the spatial abundance of reef fish species in the Gulf of Mexico. There were two challenges, zero-inflated data and out of sample prediction. The methods and models in the workflow could effectively handle the zero-inflated sampling data without strong assumptions. Three strategies were proposed to solve the out of sample prediction problem. The results and discussions showed that the nonlinear prediction had the advantages of high accuracy, low bias and well-performed in multi-resolution.

In the second part, a two-stage spatial regression model was proposed for analyzing soil carbon stock (SOC) data. In the first stage, there was a spatial linear mixed model that captured the linear and stationary effects. In the second stage, a generalized additive model was used to explain the nonlinear and nonstationary effects. The results illustrated that the two-stage model had good interpretability in understanding the effect of covariates, meanwhile, it kept high prediction accuracy which is competitive to the popular machine learning models, like, random forest, xgboost and support vector machine.

A new nonlinear regression model, Gaussian process BART (Bayesian additive regression tree), was proposed in the third part. Combining advantages in both BART and Gaussian process, the model could capture the nonlinear effects of both observed and latent covariates. To develop the model, first, the traditional BART was generalized to accommodate correlated errors. Then, the failure of likelihood based Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) in parameter estimating was discussed. Based on the idea of analysis of variation, back comparing and tuning range, were proposed to tackle this failure. Finally, effectiveness of the new model was examined by experiments on both simulation and real data.

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2020

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Estimation for Disease Models Across Scales

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Tracking disease cases is an essential task in public health; however, tracking the number of cases of a disease may be difficult not every infection can be recorded by public health authorities. Notably, this may happen with whole country

Tracking disease cases is an essential task in public health; however, tracking the number of cases of a disease may be difficult not every infection can be recorded by public health authorities. Notably, this may happen with whole country measles case reports, even such countries with robust registration systems. Eilertson et al. (2019) propose using a state-space model combined with maximum likelihood methods for estimating measles transmission. A Bayesian approach that uses particle Markov Chain Monte Carlo (pMCMC) is proposed to estimate the parameters of the non-linear state-space model developed in Eilertson et al. (2019) and similar previous studies. This dissertation illustrates the performance of this approach by calculating posterior estimates of the model parameters and predictions of the unobserved states in simulations and case studies. Also, Iteration Filtering (IF2) is used as a support method to verify the Bayesian estimation and to inform the selection of prior distributions. In the second half of the thesis, a birth-death process is proposed to model the unobserved population size of a disease vector. This model studies the effect of a disease vector population size on a second affected population. The second population follows a non-homogenous Poisson process when conditioned on the vector process with a transition rate given by a scaled version of the vector population. The observation model also measures a potential threshold event when the host species population size surpasses a certain level yielding a higher transmission rate. A maximum likelihood procedure is developed for this model, which combines particle filtering with the Minorize-Maximization (MM) algorithm and extends the work of Crawford et al. (2014).

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2022