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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
(www.statsresearch.co.nz), 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
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.
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
http://msor.victoria.ac.nz/Events/WWPMS2011/ 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
http://www.stat.math.keio.ac.jp/workshop/Announce.htm. 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.
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
www.statschat.org.nz, 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...
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.
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.