Simon Barry and Peter Caley: Managing Biosecurity for a Planet at Risk

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For a planet at risk, maintaining a countries biosecurity is a challenging task.  The data are often sparse and relate to potentially complex processes such as biological invasion into ecosystems. There is often the need to incorporate expert opinion. A key challenge for effective management is to make logical inferences that reflect both the information in the data and the possible mechanisms driving the underlying dynamics. Consequently, the mathematical and statistical sciences are central to constructing these inferences and assessing the associated uncertainty.

In this talk, I will explore these issues through a number of case studies. I will consider the scientific challenges of import risk assessment which is the process of determining whether the importation of goods or live plants or animals represents a significant risk to a countries environment or economy. Biological invasion from managed trade is typically a rare event and, by its nature, it has only rarely occurred. Consequently, the primary data about the associated likelihoods and processes is either poorly understood or not available. In such situations, the challenge becomes one of formulating any assessment in a logical and transparent manner so that, for the relevant stakeholders, the results generated by the various assessments are clearly and unambiguously interpretable.

In a second example, I will consider the assessment of whether a species is extinct based on sighting records. For example, an eradication campaign is underway in Tasmania to eliminate European foxes which have detected in the state. Foxes have not been physically sighted since 2006. The scientific question under examination here is how to determine, on the basis of the history of detection, the likelihood that the foxes have already been eradicated. I will explore this matter using existing and new approaches to such problems.

Simon Barry and Peter Caley.[subscribe2]

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