XXIX International Biometric Conference (IBC 2018)

I just returned from the IBC biennial meeting in Barcelona, Spain! 

Click here to learn more about IBC!

On Tuesday, 10 July, I gave my invited talk titled Robust and Consistent Estimation for General State-Space Models with Application to Problems in Fisheries Science and Movement Ecology.

 Dr. Alan Welsh (Australian National University, Australia) was giving a talk about Bootstrap Model Selection for Linear Mixed Models

Dr. Alan Welsh (Australian National University, Australia) was giving a talk about Bootstrap Model Selection for Linear Mixed Models

Inaugural Meeting and Year 1 Workshop of CANSSI CRT Takes Place in Montreal!

The meeting is focused on "Towards Sustainable Fisheries: SSAMs for Complex Fisheries and Biological Data".



6 June, Wednesday

  • 8:30-9:15      Introduction – Joanna Mills Flemming
  • 9:15-10:30    Update on Template Model Builder - Anders Nielsen
  • 10:30-11:00  Coffee
  • 11:00-12:15   SSAM News – Noel Cadigan
  • 12:15-1:15      Lunch
  • 1:15-2:30      DFO Scallop Fishery Case Study – Jessica Sameoto and Dave Keith
  • 2:30-4:30     Group Discussion – Chris Field
   SSAM News   given by Noel Cadigan

SSAM News given by Noel Cadigan

 Group Dinner

Group Dinner

7 June, Thursday

  • 8:30-9:15       Incorporating Covariates in the Correlation Structure of Fisheries Data - Ethan Lawler
  • 9:15-10:00     Utilising More of the Data in Stock Assessment Models - Ideas for MSc Project - Andrew Edwards and Marie Auger-Méthé
  • 10:00-10:45   Passive Acoustics + Stock Assessment = ? - Aaron MacNeil
  • 10:45-11:15    Coffee
  • 11:15-12:00    Stock Assessment 101: Surplus Production Model - Louis-Paul Rivest
  • 12:00-1:00      Lunch
  • 1:00-1:45        Some Issues Related to Finfish Stock Assessments in the DFO Quebec Region -- Hugues Benoit
  • 1:45-2:30        Coffee
  • 2:30-3:30        Planning – Joanna Mills Flemming

Canadian Data Science Workshop (CDSW): 29 April - 1 May 2018

Happy to be in Toronto to participate in the workshop and discuss data science challenges with researchers, industries, public and not-for-profit organizations.

There are insightful talks given by:

Dr. Alejandra de Almeida (Research & Innovation Development Officer of NSERC)

> NSERC Partnership Grant Programs

Dr. Sallie Keller (Director of Social and Decision Analytics Lab and Professor of Statistics, Virginia Tech) 

> Creating a Data Science Centric Organization - Challenges and Opportunities

 Dr. Juliana Freire (Executive Director, NYU Moore-Sloan Data Science Environment and Professor of Computer Science & Engineering and Data Science, NYU) 

> Building a Data Science Environment: A View from the Trenches

There are break-out sessions covering the following five topics: 

1 - Trust and usability

2 - Big data management

3 - Modelling and analysis

4 - Dissemination & Visualization

5 - Data security & privacy

 Data Science Ecosystem. Image Credit: dsg.uwaterloo.ca/CDSW

Data Science Ecosystem. Image Credit: dsg.uwaterloo.ca/CDSW

Statistical Science is Everywhere

An insightful article by Professor Nancy Reid, OC, FRSC

On Saturday, April 7, The Globe and Mail published a long article on advances in counselling and therapy around mental health—Rethinking therapy: how 45 questions can revolutionize mental health. The punch line? A new emphasis on data collection and analysis is helping therapists to track patients’ progress, alert them to troubling trends, give patients affirmation with their progress, and more. The use of these data collection efforts have been validated by clinical trials. Data collection and clinical trials have informed medical practice for chronic and acute diseases for more than seventy years.

On the same day in the financial pages an article on the use of personal data by banks and credit unions highlighted renewed attention to privacy — not surprising in the wake of the Facebook crisis—“RBC chief executive calls for stronger protections for consumer data. Statistics Canada has been collecting Canadians’ data for 100 years and has never had a data breach. How do they manage this? Through a carefully focussed, unwavering attention to the importance of privacy and the ongoing development of statistical science and infrastructure to advance this goal.

In the health pages, we read that new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported the analysis of “44 previously published high-quality studies involving 1,082,092 participants”Anti-inflammatory diet may guard against cancer). Nutritional studies rely on what statistical science calls meta-analysis, or study of studies: this leverages the information in similar investigations from around the world to increase our knowledge, and our confidence in this knowledge.

An opinion piece on Canada’s seaports referred to looming environmental risks and safety risks, as well as risks from security breaches: “security threats are uncertain because we do not have reliable data to understand the scope of the problem” — “Canada port authorities need a new culture of security. The study of risks from threats ranging from climate change, sudden storms, automobile accidents, security breaches, and much more, is underpinned by statistical modelling.

You don’t find statistical scientists quoted in any of these articles, but they are there. Statistical science underpins the collection of data, the summarization of data, and the advance of knowledge in the face of uncertainty.

Where are these hidden statistical scientists in Canada? Everywhere. They work for the government, in industry, in universities, for banks, tech start-ups, tech titans, in manufacturing, drug development, libraries and labs. Research in statistical science underpins artificial intelligence, medical decision making, business strategies, climate studies, academic fields from agriculture to zoology and everything in between.

The April 7 issue was not special in featuring stories based on statistical science—statisticians have been teaching Statistics in the News for more than 20 years. Every article in the scientific literature that relies on statistical analysis has a statistician on the team or has been reviewed by a statistician—regulatory agencies require this, as does every major science publisher. What has changed is the ubiquity of data and a new recognition of the challenges in turning data into knowledge.

The students have noticed—the number of students choosing statistical sciences programs at the University of Toronto has quadrupled in less than five years and increased from 2800 to 3500 in the past year alone.  This exponential growth is being experienced across the country and indeed around the world. Employers have noticed—the demand for graduates able to converse with data and communicate with humans are coming from all sides, and a new group of employees, who help senior managers and policy makers turn data into action is now as important as the communications department.

The new field of data science, which draws on statistics, mathematics and computer science, has developed as a response to this data revolution.  Investments in all aspects of data science are being made around the world.  The Alan Turing Institute for Data Sciencein the UK was launched in 2015 with a 42-million-pound government investment. The National Science Foundation anticipates investing 12 million (US) in a network of Data Science Institutes, for trans-disciplinary study of the foundations of data science.

A national effort that bridges the main funding agencies and advances the science of data is badly needed. When will the research funding agencies in Canada notice?

Nancy Reid, OC, FRSC, is Professor of Statistical Sciences at the University of Toronto and Director of the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI).  

Soapbox Science 2018 Halifax

This summer, Soapbox Science will take place in Halifax at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. Twelve scientists are invited to give talks about subjects across Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).  The audience will be introduced to careers in STEM, and see how STEM contributes to the advancement of life and technology. I will give a talk on “How can we count fish in the sea?".

Date:  Saturday 16th June, 2018

Address: 1209 Marginal Rd, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Time: 10am – 1pm

Learn More: http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2018-halifax/

 Photo credit: soapboxscience.org

Photo credit: soapboxscience.org

Statisticians are making meaningful contributions to important research projects in ecology and the environmental sciences.

The purpose of the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI) is to advance research in the statistical sciences in Canada by attracting new researchers to the field, increasing the points of contact among researchers nationally and internationally, and providing assistance to collaborations with other disciplines and organizations. I am the Team Leader for one of the first three Collaborative Research Team projects awarded by CANSSI, titled "Advancements to State-Space Models (SSMs) for Fisheries Science."

For distinguished contributions to the development of novel statistical methodology to study marine biodiversity and sustainability, for passionate promotion of environmetrics by bridging the interdisciplinary gap between oceanography, marine biology and modern statistical science, and for excellence in interdisciplinary mentoring of a future generation of Environmetricians.
— 2013 Abdel El-Shaarawi Young Researcher's Award Winner

The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) is a 7-year research program making use of technologies and infrastructure to understand changing marine ecosystems and demonstrate how we can learn about continental shelf ecosystems through cutting-edge research. This program is enabled by the largest federal government university research award, in Dalhousie University and Atlantic Canadian history, with investment from CFI, NSERC and SHHRC as well as from in-kind and financial contributions from OTN partners worldwide. As part of this program, I am a Co-Investigator (with 28 others) on a research grant (obtained via the NSERC Research Partnerships Program) titled “Understanding Species Movements, Interactions, and Environmental Variability across Canada’s three Oceans”.  Understanding how animals interact with a dynamic ocean environment is critical not only for conservation and resource management but also for gaining novel insight into the nature of species interactions.  I am currently developing statistical modelling and visualization tools for complex OTN datasets which is a high priority goal of OTN.

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is a collaborative research initiative to harness the vast potential of the world’s oceans and meet the ecological, economic and societal challenges of the future. As an international hub for ocean science, OFI will bring together elite researchers and institutes from across the globe to understand our changing oceans and create safe, sustainable solutions for ocean development. 

OFI is built on world-class Canadian university expertise of Dalhousie, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island, together with eight international partners including four of the top five ocean institutes in the world as well as partners in the Government of Canada’s federal laboratories, the Royal Canadian Navy, the National Film Board of Canada and national and international industry.

$94 million in funding has been awarded through the Government of Canada’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to support the Ocean Frontier Institute, the largest grant in the history of the three Canadian partner universities. OFI has also attracted an additional $125 million in support from provincial governments and partners, including a gift of $25 million from Mr. John Risley, prominent business leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist. This massive total investment of $220 million dollars is unprecedented in Canada’s ocean science sector. I am a Team Member for various Modules being funded through the CFREF. 


The Government of Canada has announced a massive new investment in a Dalhousie-led international ocean-science collaboration — one that positions Canada to become a global leader in the search for safe and sustainable solutions for harnessing the world’s ocean resources.

The Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, was on campus Tuesday to share the news that the federal government would be committing $93.7 million through its Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to support the Ocean Frontier Institute.

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is a powerful new partnership linking ocean experts from Dal, Memorial University and the University of Prince Edward Island with world-leading national and international collaborators in research, government and industry.

I'm a co-author on a paper that just appeared in Science!

Check it out:

Aquatic animal telemetry: A panoramic window into the underwater world

  • Nigel E. Hussey
  • Steven T. Kessel
  • Kim Aarestrup
  • Steven J. Cooke
  • Paul D. Cowley
  • Aaron T. Fisk,
  • Robert G. Harcourt
  • Kim N. Holland
  • Sara J. Iverson
  • John F. Kocik
  • Joanna E. Mills Flemming,
  • and Fred G. Whoriskey

Science 12 June 20151255642 [DOI:10.1126/science.1255642]

A new paper, published in Science, details the explosion in aquatic animal tracking research over the past 30 years and its impact on discoveries about the movements, migrations, interactions and survival of both common and elusive aquatic species.

The review describes a profound revolution, including over 20 examples of scientific breakthroughs, in global ocean observation science achieved through advancements in acoustic and satellite telemetry—tracking via electronic tags placed on organisms ranging from tiny neonate fish to large whales, which transmit data to fixed or mobile receiver stations or orbiting satellites.

Electronic tags can now weigh less than a penny, can transmit for more than 10 years, and can be attached to almost any species, at any life stage, to collect high-resolution data in four dimensions (2D-horizontal, depth and time).

“The vastness and impenetrability of the ocean has historically limited our ability to acquire and process information on animal movements. Telemetry has significantly enhanced our capacity to predict and plan in the face of climate change and human influence,” said Sara Iverson, scientific director of the Ocean Tracking Network and corresponding author on the paper.

Telemetry data have revealed the often-mysterious migrations of endangered marine animals like leatherback turtlesbasking sharksEuropean eels and Pacific bluefin tuna. These discoveries, and the increasingly sophisticated technology behind them, generate critical knowledge towards conservation recommendations. Tracking studies also pinpoint successes and limitations of current management plans. For example, acoustically tagged reef fish were shown to regularly move outside their Marine Protected Area, putting them at risk.

“In the future, we could be looking at spatially dynamic MPAs, which move annually with predictions of animals’ response to their environments,” said Nigel Hussey, lead author and researcher at the University of Windsor with the Ocean Tracking Network.

Acoustic and satellite telemetry studies are being combined with other biological measurements like genetic analysis or physiological status. These data help determine drivers behind animal behaviour to forecast how anthropogenic and climate changes will affect species and populations.

Aquatic animal movements and migrations transcend geopolitical, economic, and management boundaries. Telemetry studies in the last decade have documented movement over transoceanic scales, to regions unreachable by humans, and into some of the harshest parts of the ocean, providing the groundwork for “next-generation aquatic governance frameworks.”

“The ocean will continue to change,” said Hussey. “Global collaboration—among industry and science sectors, and researchers themselves—is imperative to get ahead of these changes before they catch up to us.”

The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) is a $168-million research and technology development platform headquartered at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Starting in 2008, OTN began deploying Canadian state of the art acoustic receivers and oceanographic monitoring equipment in key ocean locations and establishing partnerships with a global community of telemetry users. OTN is documenting the movements and survival of aquatic animals carrying electronic tags and how both are influenced by oceanographic conditions.

OTN is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, with additional support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust, as well as international partner contributions. oceantrackingnetwork.org