NZSA Online Newsletter Local News Page

NZSA Homepage

Newsletter 74 Index

Australian &
New Zealand Journal of Statistics

Newsletter Archive

Join the NZSA

Feedback to Editor

Feedback to Webmaster

PDF version of Newsletter 74
[5.5 MB]

New Zealand Statistical Association Newsletter 74

March 2012

Local News

AgResearch - John Koolaard
Auckland University of Technology - Kate Lee
Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago - Claire Cameron
Massey University, Manawatu Campus - Jonathan Godfrey
Statistics New Zealand - Richard Penny
Statistics Research Associates - David Harte
Victoria University of Wellington - John Haywood
University of Auckland - Rachel Fewster
University of Otago - Austina Clark
University of Waikato - Lyn Hunt



2011 was a year of changes in our Statistics team at AgResearch. Fred Potter retired in April after 11.5 years at AgResearch. Fred’s career started at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research in Wales where he worked for 28 years, starting off as a plant breeder who very quickly became interested in analysing data and programming and later completed a Master’s degree in statistics focussing on experimental design. In 1996 he moved to NZ to take up a Biometrician position with Crop & Food before moving to AgResearch.

Zaneta Park also left us mid-year for completely new challenges at the Ministry of Education. She had been with AgResearch for 10.5 years and her cheerful industry and particular expertise will be missed.

Barbara Dow has been based at DairyNZ, working for them for many years while remaining an employee of AgResearch and member of our Statistics team. That is, until recently. What’s changed is that she is now employed by DairyNZ.

We have lost five staff in total over the past year, but gained some new ones. Nieves Felipe joined our Invermay campus in Mosgiel, but regrettably has had to resign due to family circumstances. Thus there is currently a vacancy at our Invermay campus.

The Grasslands (Palmerston North) campus welcomes to its statistics team Catherine Lloyd-West and Siva Ganesh from Massey University.

As well as staffing changes and challenges, changes within the company itself have taken place. A new “matrix” management structure has been put in place for the science part of the company, but there was no obvious place for the statistics and bioinformatics team, so it has been moved into “Shared Services”. It is early days in the restructure, but we continue to hope and work for the best.

In the meantime, our team has had a presence at a number of conferences and workshops over the past while, including the GEOSTAT workshop in Canberra in April, Australasian Applied Statistics Conference (GenStat & ASReml) in Cairns and the NZSA conference. There was also a contingent at the “Biometrics by the Blowholes” conference in Kiama, NSW.

John Koolaard

Auckland University of Technology

Prof Jeffrey Hunter had two extensive academic tours of Europe. Following a visit in late June with Professor Simo Puntanen at the University of Tampere, Finland, he gave a talk titled “Markov chain properties of column sums of the transition matrix” to the 20th International Workshop on Matrices and Statistics at the University of Tartu, Estonia, and to PROBASTAT 2011 at Smolenice Castle, Slovak Republic. He was on the Program committees for both of the aforementioned conferences. His 70th birthday was honoured at PROBASTAT 2011 at the Conference Dinner and also through an inclusion in the Conference Publication “2011 Birthday Recognition Booklet” (which also featured the 80th birthdays of Professors Lubomir Kubacek and Gennadij Ososkov). In July he delivered an Invited Keynote speech (with a talk on “The role of Kemeny’s constant on properties of Markov chains”) at the MAT TRIAD 2011 Conference on Matrix Analysis and its Applications at the Instituto Politecnico de Tomar, Tomar, Portugal.

Jeff talking at the PROBASTAT 2011 meeting.

Jeff with his wife Hazel and Prof Simo Puntanen responding to the honouring of his 70th birthday at PROBASTAT 2011.

In September he returned to Europe as an invited speaker at MSMPRF 2011 (Markov & semi-Markov Processes & Related Fields 2011) at Porto Carras Grand Resort, Sithonia, Greece and delivered a talk titled “The role of Kemeny’s constant on properties of Markov chains”. At this conference he also organized a special invited session on Markov chains with contributions from Professor Stephen Kirkland (National Uni of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland), Professor Panos Vassilou (Aristotle Uni Thessaloniki, Greece), Prof Jose Palacois (Simon Bolivar Uni, Caracas, Venezuela), Professor Eugene Seneta (Uni Sydney) and Dr Konstanin Avratchenov (INRIA, France). Our jet setter, Jeff Hunter, is expected to keep travelling next year and continue researching properties of Markov chains.

A/Prof Paul Cowpertwait has been working on a research contract for the development of a stochastic rainfall/temperature model for use in a decision support system for flood warning in the Basque Country (Spain). He visited Sener International who, along with the Basque Water Agency, are funding and coordinating the project, and also visited Sir David Cox (University of Oxford, UK) who was one of the early pioneers behind the mathematical methods that underpin the stochastic rainfall model.

Murray Black has been working on his PhD comparing academic learning in statistics using an inquiry approach over three distinct learning environments. He presented the research methodologies in education research at Deakin University and a seminar on assessing statistics in the Workplace at a Learning State Conference in Auckland. He has been a national assessor in Official Statistics for unit standards within the National Certificate of Official Statistics and also jointly presented a block seminar on sampling and inference using Official Statistics at the Victoria University, Wellington.

Dr Robin Hankin presented his Gaussian process work to the NZSA conference 2011 at the University of Auckland. He has appeared on TVNZ’s “Close Up” and “Fair Go” current affairs programmes, discussing the statistics of a remarkable coincidence, and was interviewed live as a probability expert on RadioLive. He has also been quoted in The Herald on Sunday, as part of an interview discussing national Lotto statistics. Due to his friendly nature and public popularity, he is our media star!

Dr Robin Hankin on Fair Go, May 2011.

Dr Guanghua Lian gave a talk titled “Consistent Modeling of SPX and VIX Options: Efficient evaluation issues in Gatheral’s Three factor model” at the 55th annual meeting of the Australian Mathematical Society at the University of Wollongong, Australia. In December he will be visiting A/Prof Ken Sui, the School of Applied Finance and Actuarial Studies, Macquarie University, Australia to accept the invitation and attend the Quantitative Methods in Finance conference, Sydney, Australia.

Dr Kate Lee presented her work on the measure of surprise for selecting the threshold selection problem associated with extreme modellings at O-Bayes 2011 workshop, Shanghai, China and NZSA conference 2011, the University of Auckland. Following the O-Bayes workshop, she visited Dr Scott Sisson and Dr Yanan Fan at UNSW, Australia.

Kate Lee

Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago

There are 10 biostatisticians working in the Dunedin School of Medicine. They are (in no particular order) Sheila Williams, Peter Herbison, Andrew Gray, Katrina Sharples, Susan Alber, Jose Garcia, Sophia Leon de la Barra, Gabrielle Davie, Ari Samaranayaka and Claire Cameron (me). I thought we had never put in a report on our activities to the NZSA Newsletter, but have just found out that we did once – sometime in the last 36 years.

Members of the group provide teaching and consulting (and, of course, are involved in research) in different proportions, primarily in the Health Sciences Division. It is hard to describe the range of methods and applications of statistics in the group, as it is so broad. Statistical interests include Bayesian statistics, causal inference, correlated data, capture-recapture, model selection, computational biology, longitudinal data analysis, power and sample size calculations, structural equation models, item-response, systematic reviews / meta-analysis, randomised controlled trials, lifecourse epidemiology, demographic studies and surveys. Application areas include injury prevention, nutrition, psychology, inflammation, cancer, infection, immunity, physical activity, paediatrics, incontinence, asthma, physiotherapy, cardiology, dentistry and pharmacy. If you want to know more about our work, please visit our website:

News of the year is that Peter received his DSc from Otago University making it the second one in the group after Sheila received hers in 2003. He also attended the Cochrane Colloquium in Madrid where he delivered a couple of papers and is busy building a house for his retirement in Bannockburn. It is hard to speak of Peter’s retirement, as much as we all want him to be happy. Katrina was promoted to Associate Professor, which is fantastic news. Less noteworthy, possibly, is that I started work here as a consulting biostatistician at the end of August – some of you out there may know me from previous incarnations.

It is my ambition to regularly report on this group of hitherto unseen (wrt NZSA) statisticians. Perhaps, next time I will attempt to provide a photo.

Claire Cameron

Massey University, Manawatu Campus

In the aftermath of the RWC, I’ve been tackled with the ball and now find myself putting the local news together. Thankfully there is actually something to contribute without having to lean too heavily on my colleagues for their contributions. I think I’ve been given the job for the unique leaning qualities I possess – height and weight, and a meaningful threat of accidentally walking into the non-contributors. Anyway here’s the hap’s.

Overseas travel dominates the more exciting elements of the group’s doings. Steve Haslett and Geoff Jones went to Phnom Penh for three weeks in April, to work with the World Food Programme on small-area poverty estimation. They found a really good restaurant near their hotel run by a Cambodian woman who went to school in Palmerston North. Geoff went back in August to do some more work (and eating).

In late July, I was invited to go to the Czech Republic to teach blind students that R is the best software for doing statistics work as it can be used within minutes of installation. (This isn’t true for many other software options you might be using!) The host university had recently acquired a Jesuit College in Telc which was very beautiful. The only major drawbacks were the fact that heavy stone walls are uncomfortable to bump into, and they contribute to particularly poor acoustics. You should appreciate that this made for interesting encounters among the 30 or so blind people on site.

Martin Hazelton recently managed to escape from Massey for a month, to take study leave overseas. Accompanied by his family, Martin’s first stop was Los Angeles where he did some work on Brownian motion as he observed his boys progress around Disneyland. After a couple of days in the US, Martin & co flew over to the UK. Martin was based primarily at the University of Leeds, working with long-time collaborator David Watling on various statistical problems in transportation science. The work went well, and there was the added bonus of a trip further up north for Martin to watch his beloved Newcastle United play football. Rumour has it that it took two days for his voice to return having offered plenty of vocal support (along with the other 45,000 Newcastle supporters at the match).

After brief side trips to Cambridge, Oxford, Paris and London (it’s a hard life), Martin and family returned to New Zealand via a two day stop-over in Hong Kong. Martin gave a talk on “Statistical Inference for Transport Networks” to the Hong Kong Society for Transportation Studies.

He received great hospitality from Professor Hong Lo (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), including a tasty post-talk Chinese dinner (though neither Martin or his family were brave enough to try the chicken head on offer). All in all Martin reports that it was an enjoyable and productive trip – just not long enough!

On a truly local note, Ganes Ganesalingam has once again organized the Palmy Stats Forum, which is held annually here at Massey. Our invited guest speaker this year was Murray Jorgensen from Waikato. The day also included 12 contributed talks from a range of subject disciplines. Once you’ve been to an event or two like this, you start recalling when things first occur. For example, it’s important to recall when the first mention of stool samples or food-borne bacteria are mentioned, and how close these are to meal breaks. About fifty people were present for some part of the day, and most talks had an audience exceeding thirty.

It hasn’t all been fun and games for the Statistics group this year. Many readers will be aware that Chin-Diew Lai’s wife Ai-Ing passed away in August. On behalf of Chin-Diew, I’d like to thank all those who sent their messages of goodwill and friendship.

One might start to wonder what is going on for our group, as another staff member decided to give up the academic lifestyle and go over to the other side (of State Highway 57 that is). Siva Ganesh has resigned his position and started at AgResearch. Ganesh took most of the second semester off to use up that pesky annual leave balance (we all get reminders about having excessive ones, and 10 days is considered excessive by some) before taking his new role. I’d like to think that Ganesh (and Alasdair before him) are irreplaceable, and so we thought did the university hierarchy; careful observers will know that we’ve been able to advertise for a new lecturer position and a chair in Statistical Genetics. A postdoc position with Raj Govindaraju has also been advertised recently. Hopefully these ads turn into next issue’s new arrivals. Soon after starting this column, an email went out telling us that an appointment has been made for the position of lecturer.

Mark Bebbington has been filling in for Martin as subject leader over the last few months. He tells me that he’s looking forward to Martin’s return. Mark is also pleased to advise that after completing emendations, David Woods has now met the requirements for his PhD. We have a number of other PhD candidates in their final stages so perhaps they’ll be news next time I’m writing.

Jonathan Godfrey

Statistics New Zealand

There are now about 55 statisticians in the Statistical Methods part of Statistics New Zealand, and it looks like we are going to get a little bigger as we’ve just advertised for more Statistical Analysts to join SM. I can’t give an exact number as we seem to have people arriving just about every week from all over the globe, and there are people still leaving for overseas travel, other parts of Statistics New Zealand or other jobs, which contributes to measurement error.

The 21 statisticians in Christchurch have settled into their temporary home while our former home, Dollan House in the CBD, is being fixed. This is scheduled for completion April 2012. After 6 months of people working from a combination of home and various temporary offices it is nice to have everyone together for seminars and morning and afternoon tea discussions, as well as having colleagues available for statistical discussions. It’s at times like this that one appreciates being part of a large group of statisticians.

As a result of the earthquake the Population Census has been rescheduled to March 2013. At a recent meeting on how we handled the earthquake and its effects on our survey, one thing of note was it took longer to collect data from Christchurch respondents. Not, as you would think, due to a reluctance to respond as our Christchurch response was excellent. Rather, respondents needed to talk about the effect the earthquake had on their household or business while providing their responses. Another thing worthy of note is that despite all that has happened almost all regular outputs were produced, albeit with delays of a week or two for some soon after the earthquake. All three centres where Statistics NZ is based contributed to this result.

Statistics New Zealand had 5 people attending the recent World Statistical Congress, the renamed International Statistical Institute’s biennial conference, in Dublin. For the first time all the ISI Awards were awarded at the Congress. Along with the already awarded 3rd prize to Kate Smaill from Statistics NZ in the IAOS Young Statistician section, Statistics NZ also won first equal prize in the International Statistical Literacy Program (ISLP) Cooperative Project Award for its Post-graduate programme in Official Statistics. While not news from Statistics New Zealand, Cashmere Primary School was placed 3rd in the under 15-year-old section of the ISLP Poster competition for their entry: “Can you predict the weather at midday by looking out the window in the morning?”. Christine Bycroft chaired invited session IPS59 on record linkage and imputed data, Andrew Hunter presented a paper on our experiences with data integration and John Bryant a paper on Bayesian approaches to combining data from different sources. Christine also attended her first International Association of Official Statistics committee meeting since being elected to the committee. After the WSC John went to the R Users conference and presented a talk on some work on population data using the facilities available in R. Emma Bentley went to Europe to attend the UNECE conference on statistical data editing where she presented 2 papers on our behalf. Emma also visited the ONS (the British equivalent of Statistics NZ) in exotic Newport. John Lopdell is off to Canada to present 2 papers at the annual Statistics Canada Methodology Symposium.

Olena Rodnyanskiy has recently returned from the Young Statisticians meeting in Australia and found it an enjoyable and enriching experience. Statistics NZ has been sending young statisticians to this meeting for many years and very rarely find other YS from NZ in attendance. I presume one advantage on our part is we can combine a YS conference attendance with a visit to the ABS (the Australian equivalent of Statistics NZ). Jamas Enright attended the HILDA conference in Australia, which allowed him to compare Statistics NZ’s longitudinal household survey, SOFIE, with the Australian equivalent. He also made a visit to ABS whilst in Australia.

We had 9 people attending the recent NZSA conference with 5 presentations, which seemed to go well, judging by the questions afterwards which showed the audience was interested and had taken in what was said. Also Statistical Methods had a presence at the NZ Association of Economist’s conference, including a talk and contributing to a poster, which won the NZIER prize. We found it of interest how people use and abuse our data.

Walter Davis has just returned from teaching parts of the Survey Research Methods Programme (SRMP) run by the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Statistical and Survey Methodology through the Sydney Business School. SRMP is a series of 6-week courses, primarily for working folks, resulting in a Graduate Certificate or Masters in Survey Research Methods. While in Sydney, he got to catch up with Robert Clark and Ray Chambers from the University of Wollongong. It seems he also did a session in applications of probability (aka poker).

Also of note was seeing in the Christchurch newspaper that one of our former summer students, Ben Malthus, is now working at Google’s New York office.

And a final reminder that the Statistics New Zealand web site has a lot of useful data, and information about that data which is constantly being updated.

Richard Penny

Statistics Research Associates

The main news from SRA is the seminar series to celebrate David Vere-Jones’s 75th year. The seminars are held at Waikanae Beach overlooking the sea. Because the venue is small, attendance is by invitation. Hopefully by the end of the series most people who would like to come will be given the opportunity. So far, the speakers have been: David Harte (4 May), Eugene Seneta (20 July), Jiancang Zhuang (27 July), Peter Smith (7 Sept), Len Cook (12 Oct), and Yosihiko Ogata (26 Oct). Further details can be found on the SRA web site (, under “News and Events”).

We have had a number of visitors in 2011. Ritei Shibata from Keio University visited in February to work with Peter Thomson and also be part of the “Workshop on Current Research in Statistics and Data Science” on 24 Feb and 2 March. This was a joint meeting between Victoria University, Keio University and SRA.

Pierre Ailliot visited NIWA and worked with Peter Thomson in February on rainfall models. Pierre first came to NZ in 2005 as a post-doc partially funded by the Hidden-Markov project under the auspices of the NZIMA. He now has a tenured position at Brest University in France. Pierre is visiting again in early 2012.

Eugene Seneta from the University of Sydney visited in July and gave a talk in the David Vere-Jones Seminar Series.

Jiancang Zhuang and Yosihiko Ogata from the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo visited in July and October, respectively. They both gave talks in the David Vere-Jones Seminar Series, and also worked on current projects with David Harte and David Vere-Jones. The projects are on point process models for earthquake occurrence.

Valérie Monbet, from the University of Rennes 1, is currently (November) visiting SRA and NIWA for a fortnight. She is working on weather generation modelling.

Robert Davies went to the ISI in Dublin in August, and Peter Thomson is spending some of November and December at Keio University in Yokohama to work with Ritei Shibata. Alistair Gray continues to visit Canberra, most recently in November, in his role as a member of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Methodology Advisory Committee.

David Harte

Victoria University of Wellington

Our first news is about our new senior lecturer, Petros Hadjicostas, who joined us in late August 2011. Petros got his PhD from Carnegie Mellon and previously worked in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, USA. We are very glad that Petros decided to move to the southern hemisphere. So far, the hills in Wellington are a big challenge for him!

The Third Wellington Workshop in Probability and Mathematical Statistics (WWPMS3) was held at Victoria University of Wellington on 28-29 November 2011. The whole workshop was dedicated to David Vere-Jones, to celebrate his 75th birthday. There were many speakers from both NZ and overseas – see for more details. The workshop was arranged by the Program Committee (Estate Khmaladze, David Vere-Jones and Ilze Ziedins) and the Organising Committee Co-Chairs (John Haywood and Ivy Liu). We anticipate a successful workshop and by the time the newsletter is published, that should be confirmed!

We congratulate Estate Khmaladze, who has been elected to a Fellowship in the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. This fellowship honours his outstanding research and professional contributions in the field of statistics and probability. As far as we know, Estate is only the second person who has received the honour while working in NZ since the creation of the IMS in 1935.

Shirley Pledger gave an inaugural professorial lecture on 21 June 2011. Victoria’s inaugural lecture series is an opportunity for professors to give family, friends, colleagues and the wider community an insight into their research area. At the lecture, Shirley gave a talk on “How many animals are in the area? When counting doesn’t work” in a way where only one mathematical formula was given. That tactic was appreciated by the large audience and the lecture was extremely successful.

We also congratulate Dr Eleni Matechou (a recent postdoc working with Shirley) who was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Statistics at Oxford University. She will be missed a lot by the whole group for her fun/warm character (and of course, her hard working attitude!). She will continue participating in a joint research project with Shirley Pledger, Richard Arnold and Ivy Liu.

During the last six months, the group hosted many visitors. Several of them visited Estate Khmaladze, including Wolfgang Weil (KIT, Germany), Kais Hamza (Monash University), Hira Koul (Michigan State University, USA), Jiancang Zhuang (ISM, Japan), and Yoann Rives (an intern student from Telecom-SudParis, France). Maxim Finkelstein (University of the Free State, South Africa) visited Stefanka Chukova. Xihong Lin (Harvard) visited us as a Maclaurin Fellow of the NZIMA. We also welcome back Dr Yu Hayakawa (Waseda University), who is visiting us again for her current sabbatical.

The Victoria Statistics and Operations Research group contributed a session in the NZSA 2011 conference. Shirley Pledger, Eleni Matechou, Ivy Liu, and Thomas Suesse (previous PhD student of Ivy’s) gave four talks in the session. They also celebrated Thomas being appointed to a lecturer position in the University of Wollongong. Dalice Sim also attended the conference and enjoyed catching up with her Auckland classmates for a very enjoyable reunion. Stefanka Chukova has participated in many overseas conferences. She was a programme chair of the International Conference on Quality, Reliability, Risk, Maintenance and Safety Engineering, held in Xian, China in July 2011. She was also a member of the organizing committee of the 37th Conference on Applications of Mathematics in Engineering and Economics.

In December, Estate Khmaladze will visit Keio University, Japan to give a short course (three 1.5 hour talks) in the Workshop on Asymptotic Methods in Data Science organised by Yuichi Hirose (Victoria) and Ritei Shibata (Keio) – see Yuichi will also present a talk in that workshop. Estate will also visit Kyoto University on that trip. Both Shirley Pledger and Nokuthaba Sibanda will attend the International Biometric Society Australasian Region Conference (held in Kiama, NSW, Australia). Our PhD student Lisa Woods will also present a paper at the Biometric Society conference. Ivy Liu will attend the 2011 Taipei Symposium and 7th IASC-ARS. Mark Johnston is going to attend the 24th Australasian Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI2011), Perth.

Richard Arnold will be the election night statistician for TVNZ in the 2011 General Election on 26 November. It is the second General Election in a row where Richard has taken charge of the swingometer – but only metaphorically now (those were the days!).

Except for a short break when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (go Richard!), Richard Arnold was the local Course Coordinator for ORST 482 (Official Statistics), which won (jointly with an Ethiopian initiative) the ISI International Statistical Literacy Project 2011 “Best Cooperative Project Award”. The International Statistical Literacy Project’s Best Cooperative Project Award in Statistical Literacy is given once every two years in recognition of outstanding, innovative, and influential statistical literacy projects that affect a broad segment of the general public and are fruit of the cooperation of different types of institutions (national statistical offices, schools, statistical societies, media, libraries etc.). Several academics from around New Zealand were involved in the Official Statistics course. Further details about the award are available at

We are expecting a few PhD students to join us soon. Estate Khmaladze will supervise Nguyen Thi Mai Thuong (from University of Hanoi) who has received a VUW Scholarship. Both Shirley Pledger and Richard Arnold will be supervising Daniel Martinez from Spain on a PhD in clustering using finite mixtures. Also from February 2012 Richard Arnold will have a new student Darcy Webber who will work on Bayesian spatial modelling in fisheries.

In June 2011 the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Statistics New Zealand, to strengthen and maintain a partnership. This will promote official statistics and provide summer internships for MSOR statistics students.

Other than professional activities, Stefanka Chukova is now hiking in the Himalayas with her husband David, along with Ray Brownrigg and Royce Brown. There will be more news (and possibly some interesting photos!) to come, concerning this exciting trip.

John Haywood

University of Auckland

After 17 years as the plain old Department of Statistics, 2011 has seen us reinvented as the Department of Statistics and Media Babes! First and foremost – check out our new statistics blog StatsChat at, established in June as a vehicle for public outreach and statistics education. Hot topics range from the predictions of Richie McCow to the truth about earthquakes and the moon, and a cursory browse through the entertaining and excellent contributions to date will reveal why the blog has already attracted the attention of the press from MediaWatch to the NZ Herald’s Sideswipe. All contributions are welcome – the perfect opportunity to propel your statistical wit and wisdom into the blogosphere! Or enter the Statistic of the Week competition to win a $20 iTunes voucher.

Meanwhile, it seems the national media just can’t leave us alone. David Scott is the media favourite for picking the rugby scores – “Statistician proves he can pick the winners” – while Andrew Balemi is the man for picking Lotto numbers: “Revealed – Your chances of winning the $34 million jackpot!” (Evidently quite small on the basis that Andrew is still seen at work regularly.) Aiming to take the chance out of netball is PhD student Bobby Willcox, whose laptop can be seen pumping furiously on the sidelines while the Silver Ferns are playing: “Netball: Crunch1ng numb3rs 4 NZ”. After all this exertion, it feels like it’s time to chill out and go fishing. Don’t worry about the phase of the moon, says Masters student Ben Stevenson, who has been working with Russell Millar on analysing the success rate of the Maori and lunar fishing calendars. Just pick a sunny day when you’ve got a bit of free time – you probably won’t catch much anyway, so there’s no point in getting cold and wet just for a 6% lunar surplus.

A warm welcome to Marie Fitch, who has joined the department as a Professional Teaching Fellow after several years at Massey Albany. Welcome to the team, Marie!

Congratulations to Ilze Ziedins, Nick Shears, and Kathy Ruggiero, who have each won prestigious and highly competitive research grants. Ilze’s $465K Marsden grant on improving transport flow via “Control of equilibria in queueing networks with selfish routing” seems destined to sort out Auckland’s inconsiderate drivers once and for all. Ilze’s project was selected for special press release, and was the featured project for the NZ Herald’s entire coverage of this year’s Marsden awards. Nick Shears won a 5-year Rutherford Discovery Fellowship for “Maintaining healthy marine ecosystems under increased anthropogenic stress and a changing climate” - one of just ten fellowships awarded nationwide each year. Kathy Ruggiero’s scoop is an Emerging Researcher Award from the HRC: “Probing illness with a novel multi-omic time course statistical platform.” The department is very lucky to be host to such diverse and cutting-edge research projects.

Congratulations also to Russell Millar on the publication of his book, “Maximum Likelihood Estimation and Inference: With Examples in R, SAS and ADMB”, published two weeks ago by Wiley. The word has it that the book’s contents are even better than the front cover – which is a work of art in itself. Definitely a new addition for the invaluable texts and frequent-access section of your personal library.

Our PhD students have been doing us proud recently, with Jing Liu and Sam McKechnie scooping first and third prizes for the student presentations at the NZSA conference. Drs Jon Briggs and Asad Ali are our newest completed PhDs, each leaving the department with one more thesis and one more offspring than they arrived with. And on that subject, the surge of baby boys continues, ensuring that this newsletter correspondent STILL does not need to think up a new topic with which to close the local news contribution. Many congratulations to Stephane Guindon and Stephen Cope on the births of their respective sons Tom and Lance. Running total since 2000: now 27 boys and 6 girls and counting...

Rachel Fewster

University of Otago

It has been a busy time at Otago recently. In July we farewelled Jamie Sanderlin, who was a post-doc fellow in the Department with Prof Richard Barker for the last two years. Jamie left for the USDA Forest Service at Flagstaff, Arizona, USA.

John Harraway was elected President of the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE) in Dublin in August. John presented a paper at the IASE Satellite Conference on Statistics Education and Outreach at Malahide before the World Statistics Congress in Dublin.

John is also the University of Otago Census Advocate in the lead up to the National Census in early March 2013.

In October the Department welcomed the arrival of Matthew Parry, who graduated with a double honours degree in Mathematics and Physics from Otago and then completed a PhD from Brown University. Matthew worked in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge before joining us.

Austina Clark

University of Waikato

We have had a busy semester with lots of different things going on.

We were delighted to welcome Chaitanya Joshi (CJ) to our staff. CJ had been doing post doctoral research at Trinity College in Dublin with Prof John Haslett. He is interested in developing methods for computationally efficient inference and Bayesian modelling of complex systems.

In August, Murray, Bill, Steven and Lyn all attended and presented papers at the NZSA conference in Auckland.

We have had an active seminar series.

Professor Steve Reeves, (University of Waikato) presented the seminar “Probability and Non Determinism for finite automata” on 8 June 2011.

On 5 September 2011, Ben Stevenson (University of Auckland) presented a seminar – “Predicting daily fishing success: The assessment of lunar and indigenous fishing calendars”.

On 5 October 2011, Steven Miller presented the seminar “Reconstruction of a Demographic expansion from multiple sources of evidence”.

We have had the inaugural meeting of the Waikato R Users Group on 17 October 2011. We were fortunate to have Associate Professor Ross Ihaka (University of Auckland) attend the launch of WRUG and present a seminar titled “R functions – Things your mother didn’t tell you about”.

Merrilyn Goos, (University of Queensland), Mike Thomas (University of Auckland) and Sergiy Klymchuk (AUT) visited on 16 November 2011 to give a seminar “Transition from School to University Education in Mathematics: New Zealand and Australia Perspectives”.

Murray was the keynote speaker at the One Day Meeting of the Palmy Statisticians that was held on 28 October 2011 at the Institute of Fundamental Sciences at Massey University, Palmerston North. He presented the paper “Fitting Mixture Models: What’s so difficult?”.

Murray also presented the paper “Iterative methods in model-fitting and diagnostics” to the Statistics Department while he was there.

CJ visited Trinity College in late October to undertake more research with Prof Haslett.

Lyn visited Prof Kaye Basford at the University of Queensland in November to do research with her.

Congratulations go to Steven Miller and Bethwyn Littler who have recently got engaged.

Lyn Hunt

Return to top

Return to Newsletter Index