New research student part-funded by Butterfly Conservation

Congratulations to Alessandro Mari who has been awarded a CEMS GTA studentship, part-funded by Butterfly Conservation, to work on the project “Spatio-temporal models for large sets of citizen science data to inform conservation policy for UK Lepidoptera”.


Scientific background: At a time of biodiversity loss, including widely reported insect declines, citizen science data play a vital role in measuring changes in species’ populations and distributions and in seeking to understand the pressures influencing such changes. Lepidoptera respond quickly to habitat and climatic change, and hence are valuable biodiversity indicators. In the UK, millions of species occurrence records for Lepidoptera have been gathered by two large citizen science recording schemes, of which the full potential has not been fully realized. Analysing recording data of this nature presents unique challenges relating to their vast quantity but also associated sampling biases. Using cutting edge modelling, this project will maximise these valuable datasets to enhance our understanding of species’ phenology (flight periods), distribution and range dynamics to help inform future conservation delivery and policy for UK butterflies and moths.

Research methodology: The student will undertake new statistical model developments applied to citizen science data. The research will involve:

  • Critically assessing sampling design to determine how much data are needed to reliably estimate species’ occurrence trends – can occupancy models be used for rare species with small ranges?
  • Modelling species’ phenology from citizen science data to provide new insights on variation over space and time.
  • Applying state-of-the-art variable selection techniques to better describe drivers of species’ range and distribution change through suitable spatial and environmental covariates.


grants, News

Eleni awarded Knowledge Transfer Partership with NatureMetrics

NatureMetrics is an innovative, science-based, women-led SME that commercialises environmental DNA-based biodiversity monitoring solutions at scale.  They are world leaders in delivering powerful, scalable biodiversity data collected safely and sustainably using environmental DNA.  NatureMetrics work to develop end-to-end and automated tools for biodiversity detection in the field, to be used by non-experts.


This KTP aims to develop and integrate new statistical techniques for addressing two challenges associated with biodiversity surveys using environmental DNA: accounting for error and noise in environmental DNA surverys, and optimising survey design. These techniques will improve the business’s decision-support tools for nature conservation and restoration, facilitating access to new markets.


NatureMetrics’ mission is to bridge the gap between molecular techniques and environmental management by using cutting-edge DNA analysis to monitor biodiversity and measure natural capital in the environment and this KTP will enable them to achieve this mission.


Specifically, the aim of this KTP is to embed new knowledge and capabilities of Bayesian hierarchical statistical models developed by academics at the University of Kent (Dr Eleni Matechou) and University College London (Professor Jim Griffin). Through this KTP, these techniques will be integrated into NatureMetrics’ analysis workflows, enabling them to increase confidence levels around the presence/absence or relative abundance of surveyed biological communities (i.e. collections of species at a site) in downstream products.  This will optimise the cost and effort needed to collect and analyse samples.


Conferences/Meetings/Workshops, News

The role of statistics in decision-making at the landscape scale

The recordings of the invited session, organised by Eleni as Chair of the Environmental Statistics Section, at the 2021 RSS conference are available on the RSS youtube channel 

Landscapes are continuously changing, either naturally of because of human intervention. It is important to understand these changes, their short- and long-term effects and the associated risks, and to make decisions on the need and way to stop or reverse changes when required. This session demonstrated how statistics are currently used to inform decision-making at the landscape scale, with pollinators, animal populations, air pollution and droughts as case studies and will highlight emerging statistical challenges within landscape decision-making, specifically around assimilating data from both numeric and non-numeric perspectives.

The session, which took place on Wednesday 8 September 2021 14.20-15.40, featured talks by Mark Brewer (BiOSS), Richard Everitt (Warwick), Emma Gardner (Reading) and Carly Stevens c.stevens@lancaster.ac.uk (Lancaster)


Conferences/Meetings/Workshops, News

Movement and migration in ecology workshop

Daniel Bearup, Eduard Campillo-Funollet, Eleni Matechou and Bruno Santos were awarded funding from the University of Kent’s Migration and Movement Research Theme to run a 2 day workshop 5/6 May 2022.

The workshop will be themed around modelling of movement and migration, with the goal of identifying opportunities for collaboration between mathematicians, statisticians, ecologists and demographers, as well as discussing novel approaches within this theme.

The event will be face to face and take place on the University of Kent campus, in Grimond Building (in Lecture Theatre 1), with some virtual talks, to encourage interaction between participants and invited speakers.

The workshop will feature three broad themes, each covering corresponding approaches for modelling migration and movement: 1) Statistical Ecology 2) Mathematical Modelling 3) Demography and Social Sciences.

There is an exciting line up of speakers (see list below) from the UK and abroad.

Registration for the event is now closed. If you would like to attend and did not get a chance to register then you are welcome to attend the talks but please note that hospitality has only been ordered for 30 attendees.


Thursday 5th – Morning

  • Frans Willekens (virtual) 9.45-10.30 45′ Emeritus professor of Demography at the University of Groningen
  • Dave Roberts 10.30-11.15 45′ Reader in Biodiversity Conservation at the University of Kent – Slides
  • Coffee break 11.15-11.45
  • Eleonora Mussino 11:45-12:30 45′ Docent at the Stockholm University Demography Unit – Slides
  • Discussion/networking 12:30-13.00
  • Lunch 13.00-14.00

Thursday 5th – Afternoon

  • Ruth King (virtual) 14.00-14.45 45′ Thomas Bayes’ Chair of Statistics at the University of Edinburgh – Slides
  • Fay Frost 14:45-15.05 20′ PDRA at the University of Kent – Slides
  • Coffee break 15.05-15.40
  • Alex Diana 15.40-16.00  20′ PDRA at the University of Kent – Slides
  • Sergei  Petrovskii 16.00-16.45 45′ Professor in Applied Mathematics at the University of Leicester – Slides
  • Wrap up/networking 16.45

Friday 6th – Morning

  • Jonathan Potts (virtual) 9.45-10.30 45′ Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Sheffield – Slides
  • Luca Borger 10.30-11.15 45′ Professor in Ecology and Biodiversity at the University of Swansea
  • Coffee break 11.15-11.45
  • Luca Giuggioli 11:45-12:30 45′ Reader in Complexity Sciences at the University of Bristol
  • Discussion/networking 12:30-13.00
  • Lunch 13.00-14.00


If you are driving to campus then you can find information on parking here.


Obituaries for Philip North

Philip North, 21st May, 1949 – 4th June, 2021


It is our sad duty to let you know of the death of Philip North, who died on the 4th June 2021, aged 72.  Philip made a huge contribution to the development of the EURING Analytical Meetings, acting as editor of the first five proceedings.


He obtained his PhD on Statistical methods in ornithology from the University of Kent in 1979.   This involved the development of novel analyses of various BTO datasets, in particular devising a method of cluster analysis to determine bird territories and enhancing various aspects of survival estimation. His influential 1978 paper in Biometrics used a variety of methods, including logistic regression and point process modelling, to investigate the effects of weather on the survival of grey herons. In addition, through his enthusiasm and research highly productive links were established between the Universities of Kent and St Andrews and with the Centre d’Ecologie Fontionnelle & Evolutive, CNRS Montpellier, which, together with the BTO are continued by the current members of the Statistical Ecology at Kent research group.


Philip was an expert ornithologist and a keen birder.  For example, we recall that he was one of a small number of observers who recorded the first sighting of a pallid swift in Britain and Ireland Thus he was well placed to understand both the statistical and ecological aspects of avian ecology. This combination of ornithology and statistical modeling made him an ideal contributor to the EURING Analytical Conferences, as did his role as secretary of the Mathematical Ecology Group of the British Region of the Biometric Society and the British Ecological Society.


Innovative discussions and published proceedings became key features of these EURING meetings. The first two were held in Wageningen in 1986 and at Sempach in 1989 and Philip edited the resulting proceedings single-handed, as well as jointly editing the proceedings of the meetings held in Montpellier (1992), Patuxent (1994) and Norwich (1997; see https://euring.org/meetings/analytical-meetings/analytical-meeting-proceedings ) . This was an important and sustained contribution, which appreciably advanced the theory and application of relevant aspects of statistical ecology, with wide application to both theoretical and applied problems.  It also showed how data gathered by the bird ringing/banding schemes coordinated through EURING could be collected and analyzed in ways that enhanced their ecological value. It is particularly noticeable how the content of the conference papers evolved over Philip’s period as editor. The first meeting focused on the use of individual datasets to estimate specific parameters, mainly survival. By the 1997 meeting there was greater interest in model selection and applied studies, with the first signs of the developments in data integration that would follow over the next 20 years.


Philip’s wife Monica died in 2008. They are survived by their children, Robin, Geoffrey and Melissa to whom we extend our deep condolences.

An obituary  has recently appeared in JRSSA https://rss.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rssa.12767

Byron Morgan and Stephen Baillie