RSS sections and groups meeting reports

Highlands local group & Environmental Statistics section: an Inverness gathering

Written by Malcolm Hall on . Posted in Sections and local group meeting reports

Meeting organisers: Megan Towers (for host institution), Roger Humphry (for Highland local group) and Malcolm Hall (for Environmental Statistics section).

The Highlands local group periodically holds events outwith its focus of activity around Aberdeen. The Environmental Statistics section with the Highland local group continued this long-standing activity by jointly organising an afternoon meeting on environmental statistics and modelling in Inverness towards the end of October. The host venue was the bright and airy headquarters of Scottish Natural Heritage who kindly allowed us the use of their facilities. Applications utilising environmental statistics represent a substantial part of the region’s research activity and the meeting brought together scientists, analysts and professional statisticians from around the north of Scotland.

Our first session comprised proffered talks including early modelling results on possible wild Atlantic salmon dispersal routes from Scottish shores (James Ounsley from Marine Scotland Science, Pitlochry), assessing the distribution of harbour porpoises through thinned point process models (Janine Illian from University of St Andrews, St Andrews), and a description of a new approach for modelling time series of annual abundance indices as a function of high-dimensional weather data (David Elston from Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, Aberdeen).

We also enjoyed two shorter talks from individuals who do not regard themselves as statisticians, including work on improving the data quality from freshwater fish counters (Evan Roderick from the University of Highlands and Islands, Inverness) and capture-recapture modelling of Scottish wildcat trail camera data (Ruairidh Campbell from Scottish Natural Heritage, Inverness). The work involved collaborators too numerous to list from our region, throughout Scotland and into Ireland.

After refreshments we resumed for an excellent invited talk by Adam Butler from Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, Edinburgh - a reflection on developing effective collaboration between statisticians and scientists, engendering a deeper understanding of joint working across the disciplines present. The meeting format ensured that our gathering was of interest to environmental scientists as well as statisticians and while some of the material was challenging it was presented in an accessible way owing to the quality of the speakers.

Such meetings are important to our area with several groups of the 37 participants making a return trip of around 200 miles to be present (even though Inverness can be regarded as geographically central to our local group area). It was therefore a wonderful opportunity to catch-up with acquaintances and friends, make new professional contacts, and increase our knowledge. Naturally, some of us headed off to a bar for a local brew and food after the event to continue our conversations before departing home. This was an instructive and fun afternoon demonstrating how our group and section bring together like-minded professionals and interested individuals, serving the interests of RSS members while also pursuing the charity role of seeking to influence all who use statistics by promoting the discipline.

The organisers thank all participants, speakers and delegates, for making this meeting such a success.

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