Adam Butler - Environmental statistician

I began my career by studying for a BSc in Statistics. I undertook two NERC-funded placements within the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology – one of these involved looking at trends in butterfly populations and this led me to become very interested in the applications of statistics to ecology and the environmental sciences. My PhD was concerned with developing new statistical methods that could be used to study trends in extreme sea levels. It also involved working closely with scientists at the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. After completing my PhD, I joined BioSS as an Environmental Statistician. My role, which has developed a lot during the seven years that I have been working at BioSS, involves three main strands of work:

  • Consultancy: providing statistical advice and support to scientists within a range of environment-focused organisations (the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservancy Council)
  • Research: developing novel statistical methods that address key problems in the analysis of environmental data. The environmental sector is developing and growing rapidly and the research part of my job is inreasingly involved with a new initiative (ClimateXChange) to link climate change research and policy within Scotland
  • Training: providing intensive one-day or two-day training courses on Basic Statistics or statistical software (R).

The role is very varied and surprisingly social – much of my time is spent talking with scientists by phone, email or in person. I choose to work part time (four days a week) and this gives me quite a lot of opportunity to pursue outside interests (including practical conservation work).

I enjoy the role a great deal: the ecologists and environmental scientiststs that I work with are generally very passionate about the impact of their work and very knowledgeable about their areas of expertise and I feel privileged to be able to help in ensuring that their work is effective and of high quality.

Take a look at our guide to becoming an environmental statistician here.

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