Joanna Mills Flemming


Dr. Joanna Mills Flemming, professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics




Dalhousie University



NSERC Project


Statistical modelling underpins many marine research studies, particularly in the context of linking animal movements and environmental features, which are not always documented in tandem. Researchers have benefited from advanced statistical and modelling knowledge through workshops and templates made available through the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) modelling group.

What attracted you to environmental statistics?

I’ve always found statistics interesting and applying statistics and modelling to an array of scientific problems is what keeps me engaged. The late Dr. Ransom Myers, the world-renowned marine biologist, first piqued my interest in marine ecology problems and environmental statistics. His passion for understanding and protecting the ocean was contagious.

What’s it like to be a prominent member of the research community in a historically male-dominated field?

I’m very proud. I’ve always been well-supported by my colleagues, and every day I see the great value that women bring to this discipline. I try my best to connect with and mentor young women wherever possible and have myself benefited from the leadership of other women in the fields of science and research.

What meaningful contributions have statistics made to environmental science?

We’ve developed novel models for analyzing tracking data, as well as efficient methods for fitting these models to OTN data streams. By incorporating vast amounts of environmental information into our models, we’ve been able to predict animal behaviour and communicate results through scientific visualizations.

What have you been working toward in your capacity as the leader of OTN’s modelling group?

One of my main goals has been to connect data users to new tools and see an uptake of our methods in the broader community. Only then could we be sure that we were accurately describing our approaches and developing software that non-experts are willing and able to use effectively!

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your work with OTN?

I take most pride in seeing students I supervise achieve their goals. OTN has given me the tremendous opportunity to hire highly qualified students to work on real scientific problems of interest. Marie Auger-Méthé is a shining example: having just completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in my lab as part of OTN modelling studies, she obtained an Assistant Professorship in the Department of Statistics and Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia.

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