• KY16 9LY

    United Kingdom

Accepting Postgraduate Research Students

PhD projects

Statistical Models for Digital Ecological Surveys:


Ecological surveys are the foundation on which evidence-based conservation of the planet’s biodiversity and wildlife resources is built. Wildlife surveys that provide the evidence base have traditionally been conducted by humans and the resulting data treated as “snapshots” in time. However, digital survey devices like camera traps, acoustic arrays or aerial video platforms generate streams of data, not snapshots. These data are more appropriately viewed as time-to-event data, with the events being detections of the species of interest. Using the event times has the potential to yield much richer inferences about the populations under study than snapshot data can, but very little work has been done in this area. If you are interested in developing and applying new statistical methods to exploit the power of digital survey devices, this may be the PhD for you. Specific applications include camera trap surveys of large cats, acoustic surveys of gibbons, chimpanzees, and various bird species, drone-borne aerial surveys of snow leopard prey, and many others.

For more information, please see the School's Postgraduate Research web page, and in particular the information about Statistics PhD opportunities.

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Personal profile

Research overview

I develop and apply statistical methods for solving problems in ecology, primarily involving drawing inferences about wildlife population abundance, distribution and populaton trajectories from survey data of various sorts. These methods are used extensively by national, international and private conservation and management organizations. My personal web page can be found here.

Research interests

My current main resarch interests focus on developing methods to better exploit data from digital survey devices like camera traps, microphone arrays and drones to assess wildlife populations. To do this I develop methods that straddle a number of areas of statistical research including capture-recapture methods, distances sampling, spatial modelling, survival analysis and time-to-event analysis, as well as collaborating with developers of artificial intelligence methods to automatically identify species of interest in digital data streams, and with ecologists with the requisite knowledge of these species.

Industrial relevance

The assessment methods I develop and use inform wildlife management and conservation decisions and policy. Examples include setting of fishing quotas, establishing reserves, and species recovery programmes. I am currently working with snow leopard ecologists to support the world's first comprehensive survey of this elusice species, with gibbon ecologists to develop more effective methods for assessing gibbon populations, and with aerial survey specialists to implement effective video-based surveys of certain marine mammals.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

External positions

Honorary Research Associate, University of Cape Town

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