A planet organized by humans

Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by Daphane Ng

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Eco-Stats Symposium

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Gerry Quinn and why we should beware the “use the default” option on our statistical programs

The first ever Eco-Stats Symposium was recently held on July 11-12, 2013, at the University of New South Wales, Australia. With a sample size of 142 ecologists and statisticians from nine countries in attendance, the event was a spectacular success.

There were five special-topic sessions organised on: presence-only analysis, maximum entropy, multivariate analysis, bioclimatic mapping and phylogenetic diversity.  The speaker line-up included international speakers in statistics and ecology (including Prof Trevor Hastie from Stanford, Prof Noel Cressie, Prof Adrian Baddeley, Prof Bill Shipley).  Each session was specially designed to have one ecologist and one statistician each giving their views and opinions on the topic at hand.  Fortunately, none of the sessions turned into a boxing match – in fact the dual field setup proved to be a highlight.

Another highlight was the public forum “Can Maths Save the Planet?”, chaired by Mark Horstman from ABC’s Catalyst program, on the evening of Day 1, with over 200 in attendance plus an on-line following. You can watch it at http://mathsofplanetearth.org.au/can-maths-save-the-planet/.

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Mark Horstman and Prof Kerrie Mengersen in action at “Can Maths Save the Planet?”

On Day 2, following the five special-topic sessions, breakout sessions gave everyone a chance to delve deeper into the session topics and their cross-disciplinary opportunities.  Enough ideas were generated to justify a journal special issue, which we are currently planning.  Another important outcome was the recognition of the need for greater communication and collaboration between statisticians and ecologists.  The Symposium provided a platform we hope to build on in addressing this issue.

So look out for Eco-Stats 2015!

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