Department of Conservation, Science & Research Unit, Christchurch
Room I1.09, University of Waikato
DOC is responsible for all New Zealand's conservation estate and for conserving native ecosystems and biodiversity, including threatened species. To carry out such diverse management roles effectively, scientific input is essential. We have a Science and Research Unit (SRU) of around 50 people, plus a number of scientists working as technical staff in the 13 conservancies and on other projects. I joined in 2000 in the newly-created position of statistician.
I aim to outline what I see as the key statistical needs at DOC, how some of those needs are currently being met, and how those with statistical skills can assist conserving NZ's native biodiversity. Outside of SRU, a key task is encouraging and empowering staff to analyse the vast piles of unanalysed monitoring and other observational data. Encouraging the use of Excel and statistical packages to explore data and pose management questions can lead to significant gains. Tables and graphs are essential exploratory tools, and can lead on to more formal modelling. For more formal studies, design and analysis issues raise a huge range of statistical questions, many posed by the development of statistics with the availability of high-powered computers. Should we emphasise hypothesis tests or estimation of effect sizes? What is the role of ANOVA, and what about extensions to the generalized linear model and beyond? Can we encourage the use of multi-factorial rather than single factor studies? Should we be using more BACI designs? How do we most effectively use specialist tools like mark/recapture; distance sampling; survival analysis; population modelling?