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Adventures in Statistical Ecology

We live in a changing world. Our planet is warming, habitats are transforming, and animal species are becoming extinct at a rate not seen for 65 million years. Mankind must act – but what actions should we take? Environmental managers must navigate a labyrinth of competing interests to make the best decisions for a sustainable future.

To assess the ecological impact of our actions we must first understand animal populations themselves. Demographic parameters of even well-studied populations are shrouded in uncertainty: How many animals are there? Are their numbers growing or shrinking? Where do they live and roam? How far do they move? These are seemingly simple questions, but data collected on wildlife surveys are complex and noisy. We need statistical methods to transform data into answers.

The last couple of decades have witnessed The Rise of the Statistical Ecologist as a response to this challenge. In this talk, I will tell the story of my adventures as a researcher in the growing field of statistical ecology, describing some of the methods I have developed and how they are being used to understand animal populations around the world.

A copy of Ben’s slides is available here.

The frog video used in the talk is available here.

Ben Stevenson

Ben is a lecturer at the University of Auckland. Prior to joining the Department of Statistics in 2017, Ben completed a PhD and worked as a research fellow at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling at the University of St Andrews, UK. He develops statistical methods and software to estimate ecological parameters of interest, usually animal abundance or density. His recent work has met statistical challenges that arise when instruments like microphones, video-cameras, and drones are deployed to detect animals on wildlife surveys.

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