Metapopulations are a central concept in ecology and conservation biology, however estimating key parameters such as colonization rates presents a substantial obstacle to modeling metapopulations in many species. In a new study published in AoB PLANTS and designated as an Editor’s Choice paper, Charney and Record used 30 years of data monitoring the federally endangered riparian plant, Furbish’s lousewort, to construct models to estimate how frequently seeds give birth to entire new subpopulations. In these models, they simulated individual plants growing and individual seeds moving along the river where the plants grow. Compared to previous studies of Furbish’s lousewort, the authors found lower estimates for the rate at which subpopulations are born and go extinct. Future researchers may use the computer code Charney and Record provide to simulate dynamics in other species.