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Joe Watson receives the 2020 Rick White Award

Congratulation to Joe Watson, the recipient of the Rick White Award for the UBC academic year 2020.

Joe has made important contributions to the applied fields of ecology and fisheries, developing new methodologies to analyze complex spatiotemporal ecological data and developing new visualization tools that map species density hotspots. This work has helped scientists understand the spatial-temporal distribution of killer whales and the migration of Chinook salmon. He is now developing methodology to account for hook competition in fish surveys. In all of his work, he has collaborated closely with subject area specialists, including researchers in other units at UBC, a consulting company and the Canadian government.   

Through this work, Joe has met the key criterion for this award, demonstrating “excellence in statistical science through collaboration with investigators in another discipline on a substantial application”. In addition, Joe’s other activities are in line with components of Rick White’s contributions. Joe led a three-day workshop on species distribution modelling for sixty Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists, showing them why methods work, how to analyze their data in R and how to visually assess their results and the adequacies of their model assumptions. In a similar vein, Rick was instrumental in developing and delivering R workshops through the department’s Applied Statistics and Data Analysis group (ASDa). In addition, Joe has coded extensively and has also contributed to an important R package for spatio-temporal statistical modelling, accomplishments that are similar to Rick’s, with his legendary coding skills.

Joe completed his PhD in December 2020 under the supervision of Marie Auger-Méthé and Jim Zidek. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Statistics Department, under Marie’s direction and in collaboration with the government of Canada.

About the Rick White Award

The Rick White Award recognizes students who demonstrate excellence in statistical science through collaboration with investigators in another discipline on a substantial application. The award honours the memory of Rick White, who served the department and the university with his gifts in Applied Statistics.

A two-time UBC alumnus, Rick received his Bachelor of Science with a major in Mathematics in 1990 and his Master of Science in Statistics in 1992. He began his career assisting Professor John Petkau as a consultant for the Statistical Consulting and Research Laboratory, eventually moving up to the role of Managing Director of what is now the Department’s Applied Statistics and Data Science Group. Rick passed away on September 2, 2016, leaving a hole in our department and in our hearts.

To learn more about or to support the Rick White Memorial Fund, see Rick White’s In Memoriam page.

July 29, 2021