Statistics ‘trailblazer’ Professor Borchers to receive Barnett Award

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Professor David Borchers from the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics is to be presented with the prestigious RSS Barnett Award for 2024 by the Royal Statistics Society (RSS).

The Barnett Award, established in memory of environmental statistician, Professor Vic Barnett, recognises outstanding contributions to the field of environmental statistics.

RSS President, Dr Andrew Garrett, said: “David has been a trailblazer in environmental statistics in his development of new methodologies and spatial capture-recapture. He has also made sustained efforts to make his work accessible to the wider ecological community which has only furthered its impact. Congratulations to him.”

In a citation, the Society’s Council said Professor Borchers was being recognised for his numerous contributions to the development of methodology in statistical ecology and to making it accessible to the ecological community and non-academics. It also recognises Professor Borchers’ commitment to training a significant number of potential future leaders in the field, from undergraduate through to senior research staff.

Praising Professor Borchers’ work, it said: “Focusing on developing novel statistical methods to address time-critical ecological data challenges, he has been instrumental in the development of the sound theoretical basis for spatial capture-recapture as well as its application, distribution and impact. He founded the field of mark-recapture distance sampling, which has been used by thousands of practitioners in wildlife monitoring and conservation and unified many observation models for detecting and counting animals.”

Commenting on the award, Professor Borchers said: “I am greatly honoured to receive this award and feel that a good deal of the credit for it belongs to my former and current colleagues at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Research, who generated the stimulating and supportive research environment that I have had the pleasure of working in for more than two decades.”

Professor Borchers will receive his award and deliver the Barnett Lecture at the RSS annual conference due to be held in Brighton in September.

Image: Professor David Borchers of St Andrews’ School of Mathematics and Statistics

Professor Borchers obtained an honours degree from the University of Cape Town in 1987. He then worked as a statistician for the International Whaling Commission in Cambridge for three years. He returned to work for the University of Cape Town in 1990, followed by a year in Aberdeen working as a statistician at what is now Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, before moving to the University of St Andrews in 1992 as a Research Fellow, and completing a part-time PhD in statistics in 1996. At St Andrews, Professor Borchers’ had spent time as the Director of the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, head of its contract research arm, and head of the Statistics Division. He was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2020.

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