I have collected environmental data on animals, and am seeking help on how to deal with certain variables where a non-numeric value is informative, but also problematic. I have three variables that rely on each other: log, distance to log, and diameter of nearest log. These qualities are measured within a sample area of 4 m radius around a 1-m squared quadrant, where the animal is located.
- In the case of log: NA would mean I was unable to sample the quadrant or surrounding 4m area (inaccessible), None means no log(s) present in sample area, which means it could logically be equal to 0.
- For distance to log, if log is "none" or "0", then NA is not appropriate because again, that means I was unable to sample the space but a value of '0' for the distance to the log would mean the log was within the 1-m squared quadrant, which is incorrect if there is truly no log within the 4 m sample area. [The 1-m squared quadrant acts as a proxy for the whole animal].
- The same issue with diameter of nearest log exists: NA would mean I was unable to sample the space, but a value of 0 would mean the diameter of the log measured '0 cm', and a log cannot realistically have a diameter of zero (in this experiment, logs were pieces of wood greater than 7.5 cm in diameter).
Hence, for distance and diameter of nearest log, 0 cannot be the logical result if a log is not present, but zero can be the distance to the nearest log if there are logs present. Any suggestions on how to resolve this character vs numeric issue for statistical analysis? The solution may have to be making these categorical variables with the values of 'none', '0-1', '1-2', etc, and I'd need to touch up on multivariate models that handle repeated measures using categorical and numerical data.
The end goal is to do a multivariate analysis with many environmental variables to compare the animal chosen environment versus available, randomly chosen environments within the forest.
Thank you in advance.