Te Tari Pāngarau me te Tatauranga
Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Recent News

PhD opportunity: Adélie penguin population ecology in the Ross Sea

Adelie penguins are considered an indicator species of ecosystem function. The Ross Sea was recently designated a Marine Protected Area (MPA), which will limit fishing in the area significantly. However, this protection status will be reviewed periodically and could be modified or withdrawn. The research aims to understand population dynamics so that we can forecast outcomes of a range of different management and climate change scenarios, which should contribute to the decision making on the future of the MPA.

Statistical and simulation modelling will be used to explore a subset of the following interdependent processes: foraging movement of breeding adults, chick provisioning and growth, fledgling success, over-winter movements, survivorship and population dynamics. The student will have access to existing data and will participate in at least one field season in the Ross Sea (i.e. 10 weeks at Cape Bird or Cape Adare) to collect new data. Throughout the project, the student will collaborate with a range of scientists with expertise in ecology and statistics.

The successful candidate will enrol in a Ph.D. at the University of Otago under the direct supervision of Dr. Matthew Schofield in the Department of Mathmatics and Statistics. The student will be co-supervised by Professor Phil Seddon in the Department of Zoology, and Dr. Dean Anderson of Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research. Applicants should have a strong background in both ecology and statistics, and satisfy the University of Otago’s entry requirements for PhD study.

A knowledge of Bayesian data analysis is an advantage. The student should have an understanding of statistical modelling and computation.

This position is contigent on the successful obtainment of a University of Otago Doctoral or equivalent scholarship ( The scholarship covers Ph.D. tuition fees for a domestic or international student plus a living allowance of NZ$25,000 per annum for three years. The starting date will be 1 February 2019.

For further information and to apply, please contact:

Dr. Matthew Schofield

Department of Mathmatics and Statistics

University of Otago

Photo by Jason Auch - originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0760, CC BY 2.0,

June 2018

Impact of tourism on whales and dolphins

Research led by University of Otago scientists, including John Harraway, has provided evidence that whale and dolphin watching activities can have detrimental effects on the populations they target.

The study focused on populations of spinner dolphins off the coast of Egypt in sites with no tourism, controlled tourist activity, and uncontrolled tourist activity. In the uncontrolled site, in particular, there is great concern that the dolphins' resting patterns are being disrupted.

The study "Behavioural responses of spinner dolphins to human interactions" has been published by Royal Society Open Science

Photo credit: A.Cesario (HEPCA)

May 2018

John Holmes, exceptional PhD thesis

Congratulations to John for having his PhD thesis "Modelling strategies to improve genetic evaluation for the New Zealand sheep industry" added to the Division of Sciences' List of Exceptional Doctoral Theses.

John's work involved assessing the accuracy of animal comparisons (that are required for selective mating practices) when genomic data is incorporated.

March 2018

Welcome to Dominic Searles

We are delighted Dominic Searles has joined us as a Lecturer in Mathematics. Dominic studied mathematics at the University of Auckland and then completed his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. Afterwards, he was a postdoc at the University of Southern California. He and his family have now decided to come back to New Zealand and have swapped the Californian sun for the more moderate Dunedin climate. Dominic's research is in algebraic combinatorics with a focus on Schubert calculus. A warm welcome to you, Dominic.

March 2018

Littlejohn award

Matthew Schofield received the Littlejohn research award at the 2017 New Zealand Statistics Association conference. The Littlejohn award recognizes excellence in research, based on publications during the five calendar years.

December 2017

Student award

Congratulations to Timothy Bilton who was recently judged joint winner of the student prize for his talk at the 2017 New Zealand Statistics Association conference. This follows from Timothy winning the prize for best student talk at the MapNet2017 conference earlier in the year. Congratulations Timothy!

December 2017

Student award

Congratulations to Heloise Pavanato who was judged as a runner-up in the student prize at the SEEM2017 conference. Congratulations Heloise.

December 2017

Networking at the World Statistics Conference

Matt Parry and John Harraway recently represented the Department at the ISI World Statistics Conference in Marrakech, Morocco. Matt organized and spoke at a session on applications of scoring rules and chaired a session on 'Models and Visualization for Exploratory Analysis of Big Data'. John chaired a number of meetings related to the International Statistical Literacy Project.

July 2017

John Clark

The Department is deeply saddened to report the recent death on July 15 of Associate Professor John Clark. John was a long serving member of the Department having been appointed in 1970 and having retired in 2013.

Read more

July 2017

Maryam Mirzakhani, Fields medalist, dies at 40

Maryam Mirzakhani, the world’s first woman to win the Fields Medal, passed away on July 15 after a four-year battle with breast cancer. She was only 40. See here or here for information about her life and work.

Image credit:By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

July 2017

Early Career Research Awards

The outstanding work of Ting Wang and Tilman Davies has seen them both receive Early Career Research awards from the University of Otago. Congratulations to both!

July 2017

Welcome to Melissa Tacy

We are thrilled to welcome Melissa Tacy to the Department as a Lecturer in Mathematics. Melissa's research lies within the intersection of microlocal analysis, semiclassical analysis and harmonic analysis, and is particularly focused on quantum chaos. Most recently, Melissa was at the Mathematical Sciences Institute at the Australian National University.

July 2017