Exploring the dispersal patterns of insects at the SAMSI Ecology Transition workshop

Erin Schliep

Erin Schliep attended the SAMSI Ecology Transition workshop and wrote this blog post.

The following was written by Erin M. Schliep, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Statistical Science at Duke University

During the first week of May, the Ecology Transition Workshop was held at SAMSI, once again bringing together statisticians, mathematicians, and ecologists from around the country. This workshop marked the conclusion of the the Statistical/Mathematical Ecology Program that began in August, 2014.

At the beginning of the program, interdisciplinary working groups were established, each focusing on a different research area within mathematical and statistical ecology. The working groups held both in-person and virtual group research meetings throughout the year. At the Transition Workshop, members of the different working groups presented on current research projects that stemmed from the year-long program as well as exciting directions for on-going collaborations. Some of the main themes from the workshop included networks, infectious disease, dispersal patterns of insects, joint species modeling, and data fusion of multiple data sources.

woman checking her cell phone

Checking messages during a break.

As a statistician focusing on ecological and environmental applications, I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting that combined technical statistical methodology and detailed information on the ecological processes of interest. The diverse scientific backgrounds of participants in the program led to interesting discussions, including the behavior of ant colonies, the distance at which scientists aboard ships can accurately identify birds, and the polygamous mating patterns of the North American barn swallow.

Speaking on behalf of the multivariate models working group focusing predominantly on statistical methodology, the workshop was a great opportunity for us to present our current research and to learn of new and exciting ecological datasets to apply our new methods. Our current aim is developing computationally feasible joint models for species distributions that allow for multiple types of data, such as continuous, count, or composition data. Even though the program is completed, our group continues to meet and has established research goals for the coming months.  I know that many of the other working groups within the Statistical/Mathematical Ecology Program also have on-going research and I am excited to learn of their future progress.


A day on Capitol Hill

The following was written by Kimberly Kaufeld, SAMSI postdoctoral fellow.

The American Statistical Association (ASA) and the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) paired up to participate in meetings with staffers from Congress and an exhibition for the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) on Wednesday, April 29th in D.C.

The day led off by meeting representatives from Congress to communicate the importance of NSF. Our group consisted of Jessi Cisewski, a former graduate fellow of SAMSI and visiting faculty at Carnegie Mellon University;

three people next to a scientific poster

(L-R) Jessi Cisewski, Richard Smith and Kimberly Kaufeld.

Kimberly Kaufeld, a current postdoctoral researcher at SAMSI ; Richard Smith, the director of SAMSI; and Steve Pierson, Director of Science Policy for the ASA. Together, we had several meetings with staffers from both the Senators and Representatives in North Carolina.

The exhibition in the evening featured science, mathematics and engineering research and education projects supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Over 50 projects were represented, including researchers, students, and educators from across the US, as well as program officers from NSF as well as representatives of the Senate and House of Representatives. The SAMSI/ASA poster featured a variety of work from SAMSI. Jessi demonstrated her work in the field of astrostatistics, using statistics for astronomy problems one universe at a time. Kimberly showed her work in the current SAMSI statistical and mathematical ecology program on the impact of bark beetle outbreaks and climate change in the West. Richard talked about what SAMSI is about and past and upcoming programs that SAMSI offers and the number of researchers involved in the programs across the United States.

SAMSI people with Rep. Jerry McNerney

(L-R) Jessi Cisewski, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9) and Kimberly Kaufeld.

During the event, representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), the ranking member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee talked to Richard Smith about SAMSI and how NSF has contributed to SAMSI’s development. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9) also spent some time at the SAMSI booth – he has a PhD in Mathematics and has long bene known as a champion of science in Congress. Several NSF program officers stopped by to talk to Jessi and Kimberly about their research and provided them with different funding opportunities within NSF.

Overall, it was a great experience to meet and talk to representatives of the Senate and House about how NSF is a vital part of the statistical and mathematical community. It was welcoming to see all the different NSF supported programs come together to the Capital to show all the different projects and programs in the United States that NSF is supporting.