# Notes on the Negative Binomial Distribution in Ecology

There are many different formulations of the negative binomial distribution (NBD).

## Default Formulation

In the default formulation, it is the number of failures to occur in a series of Bernoulli trials before a target number of successes is reached.

For example consider the number of failures that occur before 10 successes (\(N\)) are achieved where the probability of success (\(\rho\)) is 0.5.

With R this can be achieved as follows.

## Ecological Formulation

A common use of the NBD in ecology is to model over-dispersion in count data. In this situation a more useful formulation is in terms of the mean number of counts (\(\mu\)) and the dispersion (\(\phi\)) where the standard deviation of the distribution is given by

\[\sigma = \sqrt{\mu + \mu^2 \cdot \phi}\]

It is worth noting that if \(\phi = 0\) then the NBD is equivalent to the Poisson distribution.

#### R

In R, this alternative formulation is parameterised in terms of `size`

(\(1/\phi\))

#### TMB

In TMB, the default formulation `dnbinom()`

follows the default convention of using \(N\) (`size`

) and \(\rho\) (`prob`

). However, an alternative formulation, `dnbinom2()`

, uses the mean (\(\mu\)) and variance (\(\sigma^2\)). To reparameterise in terms of \(\mu\) and \(\phi\), the variance should be set to be \(\mu + \mu^2 \cdot \phi\).

#### STAN

In STAN, there is a formulation `neg_binomial_2()`

which uses the alternative R formulation except the second parameter (which is equivalent to \(1/\phi\)) is called `phi`

.

For examples of the NBD in action see https://github.com/joethorley/bioRxiv-028274/blob/master/model-lek.R.