RSS Merseyside meeting at Chester Zoo

On 2 October 2019, the RSS Merseyside local group held an event at Chester Zoo, where four key speakers spoke about their work as lead conservation scientists at the zoo. The speakers were Dr Lisa Holmes, Dr Katie Edwards, Dr Simon Tollington and Dr Andy Moss.

Cases studies were presented to demonstrate the use of statistical analyses and longitudinal data collection in informing the management of a range of species at the zoo. As well as working with many endangered species, Chester Zoo Science Department is involved with collaborative work with UK universities and international zoos, supporting global conservation activities with scientific evidence.

Dr Lisa Holmes, who works on behaviour & welfare, gave a brief introduction to the zoo's Science Department followed by a talk on 'Longitudinal data analysis to inform animal welfare'. She discussed how longitudinal data can help determine animal welfare. Often the samples sizes are small, however through evidence-based data collection, positive changes can be implemented for the species being monitored.

Dr Katie Edwards, lead conservation scientist in biomarker research & development talked about 'Looking for patterns in poo: how longitudinal hormone data can help inform conservation breeding programmes'. A wildlife endocrinologist, Katie described her work investigating biomarkers of health, wellbeing and reproduction using non-invasive hormone analysis. In addition to exploring cases studies, Katie applied the allostatic load model to animals and showed how there is a need for a multi-biomarker approach specific to animals.

Dr Simon Tollington, lead conservation scientist for population health and ecological monitoring, gave a talk on 'Using datasets from long-term monitoring programmes to inform conservation management'. The Mauritius Parakeet, previously an endangered species, is experiencing an ongoing recovery thanks to careful monitoring. Simon explained how methods such as stable isotope analysis could be used to investigate how supplementary food supplies were affecting breeding rates during a disease outbreak.

Dr Andy Moss, lead conservation scientist in social science, spoke on 'Measuring the educational impact of visiting zoos'. Chester Zoo has been involved in an international project to assess the knowledge of zoo and aquarium visitors regarding what biodiversity is and measures to protect it. Andy explored how much conservation education can help reach global biodiversity targets.

The meeting had 43 attendees from a range of workplaces including HSE, Unilever, and a large number from the University of Liverpool (from departments including but not limited to Biostatistics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Engineering, and Earth Sciences).  Approximately one third of those that attended were RSS members. 

The next RSS Merseyside local group meeting on the topic of 'Communicating Statistics' will be held on the 18 December 2019.


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