Ecological Statistics Summer Club 2023

Photo credit: Professor Juan Manuel Morales

Announcing....the Ecological Statistics Summer Club at the University of Toronto! Open to any UofT statistics student or other students with sufficient quantitative training.

The idea for this club spurred from students in STA465/2016: Theory and Methods for Complex Spatial Data having an interest in learning more about ecological statistics. Given the focus on Gaussian random fields in the course, our first summer will focus on applications of GRFs and Gaussian processes for modeling of ecological data.

The ecological data -- sharks! In collaboration with the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, students will work on developing spatial/spatio-temporal/time series models to answer questions about how sharks interact with each other, their environment, and what drives their behavior. 

First meeting: Monday, May 8th, 2023 from 5-8 pm at DoSS
Summary: Sharks are cool. A total of 10 people, ranging from undergraduate students to postdoctoral fellows, joined to brainstorm our shark statistics summer plans. Two systems of interest: juvenite white sharks and leopard sharks.

Second meeting: Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023 from 5-8 at DoSS
Summary: We've got data! We started exploring leopard shark data sets, collected and owned by Jack May + Shark Lab, and juvenile white sharks, collected and owned by Emily Spurgeon + Shark Lab. Mostly doing some EDA, realizing how messy real data can be, and trying to figure out some next steps. Reading papers by Janine Illian and creeping closer and closer to getting some models running in INLA. We also had new folks join -- the shark statistics crew is growing.

Third meeting: Tuesday, May 30th, 2023 from 5-8 at DoSS
(Today is the last day to join for the summer!)
Summary: We had 15 people join -- our biggest group yet! We're starting to dig in to the leopard shark data and juvenile white shark data. Special visitor, Vinky Wang, talked to us about her previous work building a spatial model for the leopard shark data set and what some possible future directions could be.

Fourth meeting: Tuesday, June 13th, 2023 from 5-8 at DoSS
Summary: Time to introduce the #ModellingNotDawdling term, adapted from the Shark Lab's #TrackingNotSlacking. We went over the Exploratory Data Analysis that folks had done for the leopard sharks and the white sharks. We also had Emily Spurgeon join us and amaze us with her data, her plots, and she gave us a path to follow for the juvenile white shark analysis. We also made teams!!! #TeamLeopardShark #TeamJWS We've got a path forward for each system and will soon uncover the mysteries they hold.

Fifth meeting: Tuesday, June 27th, 2023 from 5-8 at DoSS
Summary: The teams worked hard on their respective projects. Team Leopard Shark is trying to get INLA up and running to model point process shark data and Team Juvenile White Shark is learning about habitat selection models and the 'amt' R package.

Sixth meeting: Tuesday, July 11th, 2023 from 5-8 at DoSS
Summary: Continued project work. Team Leopard Shark is exploring penalized complexity priors in INLA to 'fix' some of the model implementations that are not performing very well.
Team Juvenile White Shark started fitting the habitat selection models and are getting preliminary results. There were also lots of timbits and pizza to enjoy!

Seventh meeting: Tuesday, July 25th, 2023 from 5-8 at DoSS
Summary: We all became Team Juvenile White Shark in hopes of getting one of the analyses done this summer. We've selected individual sharks and are implementing individual-based models to think about how a population-based model might be constructed to account for individual variation.

Eighth meeting: Tuesday, August 1, 2023 from 5-8 pm at DoSS
Summary: We continued to work on the juvenile white shark project and attempted to fit habitat selection models to data from other animals, such as stingrays, other sharks, and other fish.

Last meeting: Tuesday, August 15th, 2023 from 5-8 pm at DoSS
Summary: We ate cake and chatted with Emily. We came up with a plan to finish the analysis and enjoyed the last pizza of the summer.