ENVIRONMETRICS AUSTRALIA
Statistical Solutions to Environmental Problems

News & Updates

Adelaide Coastal Waters Study - South Australia's illegitimate child.
December 15, 2016 
It's almost a decade since the completion of the Adelaide Coastal Waters Study. Project Director, Prof. David Fox shares some insights into how the study and the final report were managed.

Vale Brian White
21 October, 2016 
One of the country's best mathematics educators recently passed away.

Time to shut down tabloid journals and Academic Doping
19 August, 2016 
The academic and research communities are being swamped under a tsunami of junk journal invitations promising rapid publication in their "prestigious" publications.

Ten Simple Rules
June 21, 2016 


Statistics may be everywhere, but they aren't always understood, calculated, or communicated effectively. After a suggestion from the ASA, a group of leading statisticians penned "Ten Simple Rules for Effective Statistical Practice"  to help researchers avoid pitfalls of misrepresenting data or formulating hypotheses based on faulty statistical reasoning.


Joe Gani on CSIRO
June 10, 2016 
Professor Joe Gani was a distinguished mathematical statistician and was Chief of CSIRO's Division of Mathematics and Statistics between 1974 and 1981. In a 2008 interview he reflected upon his CSIRO years. What's extraordinary is how very little has changed with respect to CSIRO's penchant for change!

As we've long been advocating - it's time this endless, unproductive cycle of deconstruction and reconstruction ceased (or at least had a longer return period).

If you think all the current rhetoric about CSIRO needing to become more relevant, more commercially focused and 'customer' driven is new, reflect for a moment on Professor Gani's experience more than 40 years ago.

Climate Science on the Skids
May 30 2016 
CSIRO CEO, Dr. Larry Marshall makes another extraordinary claim.

New paper published
May 25, 2016 
Professors David Fox (Environmetrics Australia / University of Melbourne) and Wayne Landis (Western Washington University) respond to renewed calls to retain the NOEC in ecotoxicology.

Larry Marshall - Same dog, different leg action
April 11, 2016 
Although CSIRO has a new CEO in Larry Marshall, the 'innovation' rhetoric and restructuring is not. You'd think that with the passage of 10 years, the organisation (indeed any organisation) would be reaping the benifits of structural change. Regrettably, CSIRO never got off the slash and burn treadmill.

CSIRO suffers the bends after Deep Dive
April 08, 2016 
CSIRO in the spot-light again - for all the wrong reasons (again)

Hey Larry - it's not either / or
February 12, 2016 
CSIRO's boss, Larry Marshall takes the axe to climate research

Statisticians and (eco)Toxicologists Unite!
January 5, 2016 
As debates about the legitimacy of NOECs and NOELs continue unabated, we believe it's well and truly time to establish a sub-discipline of Statistical (eco)toxicology.

Revised ANZECC Guidelines officially released!
22 December, 2015 
It's been a long process, but the Revised ANZECC Water Quality Guidelines for Toxicants has been officially released.


22-12-2015 

SETAC Australasia - Nelson NZ
27 August, 2015 
"Toxicant guideline values for the protection of aquatic ecosystems -  an improved derivation method and overview of priority toxicants."

Rick van Dam, Graeme Batley, Michael Warne Jenny Stauber, David Fox, Chris Hickey,  John Chapman

Is data scientist sexiest job of the century?
19 April, 2015 
A few years ago, The Harvard Business Review hailed the burgeoning role

of data scientist  "The sexiest job of the 21st century" . With big
data technology driving the change, how does the new role stack up?




Social 'Science' - Science No More!
18 March, 2015 
This is not a bad dream - the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology has banned the use of statistical inference!

CSIRO and the Gutting of Wisdom
21 December, 2014 
Read Bridie Smith's story about the impact of funding cuts to the CSIRO.

Hello 2015. Goodby Linkedin
January 2, 2015 
Have you stopped to think about the actual value YOU derive from having a Linkedin account?

Statistical Janitorial Services
December 31, 2014 
We've written about BIG data before and while some reckon it's sexy, you better roll up your sleeves because you'll invariably need to do a lot of 'janitorial' (a.k.a. shit) work first!

The problems of very small n
December 4, 2014 
Professors Murray Aitkin and David Fox are invited speakers at the Australian Applied Statistics Conference (AASC) 2014.

BIG data is watching you
November 6, 2014 
Ron Sandland recently wrote about the new phenomenon of 'big data' - weighing up the benefits and concerns. Terry Speed reflected on the same issue in a talk earlier this year in Gothenburg, Sweeden noting that this is nothing new to statisticians. So what's all the fuss about?
Here's another take on the 'big data' bandwagon.

New Method for Water Quality Guideline Calculations
Sep 15, 2014 
The ANZECC (2000) Guidelines are currently being reviewed.

The Explosive Growth of R
Sept 3, 2014 
Have no doubts - R reigns supreme!!

R - the Wikepedia of statistical software?
August 20, 2014 
The R computing environment is feature-rich, incredibly powerful, and best of all - free! But to what extent can we trust user-contributed packages?

Let there be light!
May 22, 2014 
New Industry Standard for managing seagrasses during dredging projects.

Statistical Accreditation
May 20, 2014 
Make sure you're dealing with someone who knows their stuff!

Job losses at CSIRO bigger than expected
May 15, 2014 
Confirmed in a message yesterday from CSIRO Chief Executive, Megan Clark:

Australian Science takes a hit
May 15, 2014 
Joe Hockey's budget has not been kind to science

Information-gap decision theory creates a gap in ecological applications and then fills it
May 14, 2014 
You may not of heard of Info Gap Decision Theory (IGDT) but don't worry, not many people have.

Probability Weighted Indicies for Improved Ecosystem Report Card Scoring
May 09, 2014 
A new way for calculating an environmental index is described in an upcoming paper "Probability Weighted Indices for improved ecosystem report card scoring" has been published in Environmetrics. Click here.


New Report on Ecosystem Report Cards
April 4, 2014 
'Report Cards' and their associated scoring techniques are widely used to convey a measure of overall ecosystem health to a wide audience. However, as with most things, developing, testing and validating these metrics is not straightforward.

Revision of Australian Water Quality Guidelines
March 27, 2014 
The long-awaited review of the ANZECC/ARMCANZ (2000) Water Quality Guidelines is now well under way!

Turbidity Monitoring clouded by dubious science
February 17, 2014 
Regulators and industry around the country are using a potentially flawed method to set environmental limits on water column turbidity.

Breaking down the team barrier
21 January, 2014 
New research suggests that team effectiveness may actually benefit from tension and hostility.

Mathematics of Planet Earth
May 30, 2013 
Local and international experts come together to discuss how mathematical and related scientific disciplines can be utilised to better understand the world around us.

Canadian Environmental Science and Regulation under threat
12 April 2013 
The Canadian Federal Government is making drastic reductions in the reach and capabilities of its environmental science departments.  Read Peter Wells's Marine Pollution Bulletin article.

High Impact
15 March 2013 
The peer-reviewed journal "Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management" (IEAM) lists Fox (2012) as one of its most accessed articles in 2012.

New Predictive Capability for Dredging projects
29 November 2012 
Environmetrics Australia has developed a unique water column turbidity and benthic light forecasting system.


Archive

Probability Weighted Indicies for Improved Ecosystem Report Card Scoring
May 09, 2014 

A new way for calculating an environmental index is described in an upcoming paper "Probability Weighted Indices for improved ecosystem report card scoring" has been published in Environmetrics. Click here.





Assessing the state of the environment or a small part of it is a challenging task. We can observe it, measure it, and monitor it but a more fundamental question is  "how?". A related question is what is "it" -  everything?;  just the important things?; the threatened things?; the sentinels?; or only the things that directly affect us? These are difficult questions to answer but nonetheless are ones that environmental scientists, natural resource managers and governments have to address on a regular basis. Clearly we can't measure everything, so the task is reduced to identifying a set of variables or parameters that are either measurable or observable and which, either separately or together, provide useful information about current status and trends in environmental condition over space and time.

Notwithstanding the difficulties listed above, additional consideration needs to be given to (a) the method(s) and metrics by which we assess change in condition; and (b) the development of an appropriate aggregation or 'pooling' scheme to combine many measures into a single 'index'. To give this some relevance, suppose we have decided to assess the condition of a water body by taking measurements on two parameters: dissolved oxygen (DO) and total suspended sediments (TSS). The first question that must be addressed is what are the threshold or benchmark values of DO and TSS that (individually) represent minimum desired outcomes? Assuming this question can be addressed we then need to combine the results for DO and TSS into a single assessment - usually either an index between 0 and 100, a 'traffic light' colour (red, amber, green), or a label (good, fair, poor). This raises further questions. For example, should the final description assign equal weighting to both DO and TSS? Perhaps it's more important to keep DO levels high and so we might weight this more heavily in our assessment process.

The present paper focuses attention on the first problem, namely, how do we decide if an individual result is good, bad, or unchanged? The way this is usually done is to compare the current reading with an average value that has been computed from an unimpacted or what is otherwise regarded as 'healthy' system. While this may be intuitively plausible, it suffers from one significant drawback: the average value of an environmental parameter is rarely a good benchmark. The reason for this is that ecosystems tend to respond to extreme conditions rather than 'average' conditions. Thus, for example, it is not the average concentration of a pollutant that is toxic or the average level of dissolved oxygen that leads to fish dying. Just as engineers design bridges to withstand the heaviest load or dams to withstand the 1-in-100 year flood, environmental scientists similarly need to focus on extreme outcomes.

The insensitivity of the arithmetic mean to important changes in environmental condition reminds one of the joke about the statistician who has his head in a freezer and his feet in an oven yet claims that, on average, he feels fine! Similarly, if we measured dissolved oxygen on two occasions and found one was three standard deviations below the benchmark and the other was three standard deviations above the benchmark we would erroneously conclude, because the average is equal to the benchmark, that the water quality was totally acceptable. In fact what we are likely to see is dead fish floating on the surface as a result of the extremely low DO event.

The present paper takes a slightly more sophisticated approach to this problem by providing an additional 'knob' which the environmental scientist can use to fine-tune the assessment process so that it focuses on the more ecologically relevant portion of the response distribution. It does this in a way that still retains all the monitoring data, but importantly, treats some values more importantly than others in the final determination.

Copyright (C) 2014 ENVIRONMETRICS AUSTRALIA