Eureka! UNSW statistician, Jakub Stoklosa, shortlisted for prestigious environment prize

Dr Jakub Stoklosa (UNSW Mathematics and Statistics) has been shortlisted for a 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prize, a prestigious acknowledgment of his work applying statistics in the environmental sciences.

Jakub and his colleagues have been nominated in the Environmental Research category of the award, for their work on a long-term project which looked at the genetic rescue and translocation of Mountain Pygmy Possums in Mount Buller, Victoria. Dr Stoklosa’s role as a statistician was to provide reliable and accurate estimates of Mountain Pygmy Possum abundances using statistical methods (known as capture-recapture methods) and recapture data collected over 20 years.

The Eureka Prize for Environmental Research, sponsored by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, is awarded for an outstanding research project in any field of the biological, physical, mathematical or biomedical sciences leading to the resolution of an environmental problem, including a challenge posed by climate change, or the management or protection of Australia’s environment.

Dr Stoklosa’s collaborators for the Mountain Pygmy Possums project were Andrew Weeks (team leader; University of Melbourne), Dean Heinze (La Trobe), Louise Perrin (Mt Stirling Resort Management, Mt Buller), Ary A. Hoffmann (UMelb), Anthony van Rooyen (cesar Australia), Tom Kelly (Mt Stirling Resort Management, Mt Buller) and Ian Mansergh (La Trobe).

Dr Stoklosa is one of five staff members within UNSW Science (and ten University-wide) who were nominated for Eureka Prizes in this round. Of their nominations, Dean of Science Emma Johnston said, “Looking at the categories that Science finalists are in the running for, two themes stand out to me: environmental research and innovation. Our academics are constantly exploring new ways to solve the challenges that today’s society faces, and that’s why they’re seen as leaders in innovative science. I congratulate all finalists on being recognised in Australia’s leading science awards and wish them the best of luck.”

Winners of the Eureka Prizes will be announced on 29 August. We wish Dr Stoklosa and his team a very warm congratulations and the very best of luck!

About the project

The Mountain Pygmy Possum (Burramys parvus) is one of Australia’s most threatened marsupials, located in only three main regions of Australia. A small population of possums located in Mount Buller, Victoria have been in sharp decline since 1996 due to various reasons, such as depletion of genetic variation, climate change and human disturbances. To conserve and increase the population size, habitat restoration, environmental protection and a genetic recovery program were implemented in the last decade. The genetic recovery program involved the translocation of a small number of male possums (originally from Mt Hotham, Victoria) to mix in with the Mount Buller population.

After the successful translocation of possums to Mt Buller, a rapid recovery in the target population translated to population growth, healthy breeding and improved survival rates over the last seven years. The adult population is now 68% larger than when this population was first discovered in 1996. Very few studies around the world have been able to achieve this with threatened species and reproduce such successful results.

The project has attracted funding via the Australian Research Council Discovery grant scheme, Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management Board, FAME Ltd, and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) Victoria.

Their work also led to a Nature Communications paper published in late 2017.

Dr Jakub Stoklosa, School of Mathematics and Statistics, UNSW Science. In collaboration with researchers from the University of Melbourne; La Trobe University and Mount Buller Mount Stirling Resort Management – NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research

The unique Mountain Pygmy Possum population of Mt Buller had been isolated for 20,000 years but was facing imminent extinction just ten years after it was discovered. Through a program of cross breeding isolated populations of the threatened species, the Burramys Genetic Rescue Team was able to boost genetic variation, translating to population growth, healthy breeding and improved survival rates. Australia’s first genetic rescue has become a template for saving other species under threat.

Dr Stoklosa’s role as a statistician was to provide reliable and accurate estimates of mountain pygmy possums abundances using statistical methods and recapture data collected over 20 years.

After the successful translocation of possums to Mt Buller, a rapid recovery in the target population translated to population growth, healthy breeding and improved survival rates over the last seven years. In fact, the adult population is now 68% larger than when this population was first discovered in 1996. Very few studies around the world have been able to achieve this with threatened species and reproduce such successful results. A paper about the project has been published in Nature Communications.

This post is a modified version of this article by Susannah Waters (UNSW).

Advertisement

Moninya Roughan

I strive to create an inclusive work environment for my team that represents the diversity found in our society. My goal is to make a fundamental contribution to oceanography in Australasia and internationally. To do this, I support my team to be the best that they can be while solving exciting problems and undertaking industry relevant research.

Presently I lead a vibrant team of coastal and regional oceanographers. We investigate the complex dynamical processes occurring on the continental shelf of SE Australia through a combination of observations and numerical modelling. I co-lead the NSW node of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System, and I lead the coastal moorings radar and glider program within the state of NSW. I supervise Phd Students, postdocs and marine technicians all of whom are striving to understand the challenging and complex oceanic environment.

Links:

MetOcean Solutions Ltd, New Zealand
UNSW Coastal and Regional Oceanography Lab
UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics

Follow me on Twitter: @moninya

Public lecture: Monday July 30 2018

Date: Monday, 30 July, 2018 – 18:00 to 19:30

Where: Tyree Room, John Niland Scientia Building, UNSW Sydney

Join Professor Darryn Waugh from Johns Hopkins University and UNSW for an enlightening discussion around the enduring impact of the ozone hole on climate.

The discovery of a dramatic decrease in the protective ozone layer high above Antarctica generated worldwide concern and ultimately led to the landmark 1987 Montreal Protocol banning ozone-depleting chemicals. While the initial focus on the ozone hole was increased UV radiation reaching the surface, more recently it has become clear that the ozone hole may have an impact on other aspects of the atmosphere-ocean climate system.

Darryn will discuss recent observed changes in southern hemisphere tropospheric and ocean circulations, and the connection to the ozone hole. He will also examine simulated future changes, and when ozone is expected to recover.

Registration essential:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-enduring-impact-of-the-ozone-hole-on-cl…

About the speaker: Professor Darryn Waugh is one of the world’s preeminent research scientists in atmospheric, ocean, and climate sciences. He is currently a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University (USA), and in 2017 joined the UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics on a part-time basis.
Professor Waugh has been the lead investigator on several NASA projects, and is a co-investigator on multi-million dollar funded NSF Frontiers in Earth System Dynamics initiatives. His main research interests are oriented toward understanding dynamics and transport in the atmosphere and oceans.
He has attracted a collection of prestigious awards and fellowships throughout his career, including two NASA Group Achievement Awards, the Francois N. Frenkiel Award, and two AGU Editors Citations for Excellence in Refereeing. He completed his PhD in Applied Mathematics at Cambridge University in 1991.

 

Amandine Schaeffer

This photo was taken on the French research vessel L’Astrolabe, on the way to Antarctica. I was volunteering to launch XBTs (Expendable Bathythermograph) during the voyage, which take measurements of the temperature of the ocean water column down to 2 km. These types of observations are invaluable to study climate change and the role of the ocean in mitigating it.

Observing, understanding and modelling the oceans is now my job at UNSW Sydney, focusing on the East Australian Current and its impact on shelf dynamics. Every oceanographic study involves a deep understanding of the physics driving the ocean circulation and variability, and Mathematical tools are behind each scientific discovery – this is why I am part of “Mathematics for Planet Earth”.

Dr. Amandine Schaeffer, Lecturer
School of Mathematics and Statistics, UNSW Sydney

Links:

Personal webpage
UNSW Coastal and Regional Oceanography Lab
UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics