University of St Andrews

School of Biology News Centre

item 524
[29-07-2011 to 03-10-2011]

News Item:
Dr Jose Xavier to be awarded Muse Prize at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity

On the first day of the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity, to be co-hosted by the Universities of St Andrews and Aberdeen, 26th – 30th September, 2011, Dr. Jose Xavier, a marine ecologist at the Institute of Marine Research of the University of Coimbra in Portugal and the British Antarctic Survey in UK, will be awarded the 2011 Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica (
Beginning with his doctoral research (Ph.D. Cambridge University, 2003), Dr. Xavier has conducted outstanding research on the predator-prey dynamics that sustain populations of albatrosses, penguins, and other top predators in the Southern Ocean. One example of his leadership in this field is his recent publication of a comprehensive monograph on cephalopods, an important top predators prey, titled “Cephalopods beak guide for the Southern Ocean” (Xavier and Cherel 2009), that will be a great aid to many Antarctic researchers.
"It is AMAZING and a true honour to receive such a prestigious prize”, said Dr. Xavier. "Such a prize will strengthen and open new doors to international collaborations, agreeing with the true spirit of how Antarctic science is carried out today!"
The Prize, which carries with it a $100K monetary award, is supported by the Tinker Foundation, whose founding director was Martha T. Muse. The Prize is inspired by Martha Muse’s passion for Antarctica and is intended to be a legacy of the International Polar Year 2007-2008.
The prize selection committee of leading Antarctic scientists and policy makers also cited his leadership in the establishment of a new and thriving Antarctic research program in Portugal during the International Polar Year (IPY, 2007-2008) and in launching a highly successful educational program, LATITUDE 60! during the IPY. Furthermore, Dr. Xavier was an active leader, as member of the executive committee, in the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) between 2007-2009 and was an active member of the IPY Education and Outreach sub-committee, contributing significantly for making Portugal an example worldwide in terms of science, education and outreach during IPY. He has also been recognized by being invited to serve in various scientific research committees, expert groups and international research programs.

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    Ever wanted to know how individual experts come up with their informed opinions? How they generate quantitative answers to difficult and uncertain problems? If so, then join CREEM on Wednesday December 2nd, from 1330-1600 when we host one the world’s leading experts on expert elicitation – Professor Tony O’Hagan from the University of Sheffield. Professor O’Hagan has consulted and instructed government, academia, and many corporations on the successful use of expert elicitation.

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    Harwood: There is growing evidence that individuals of many marine mammal species show a marked change in behaviour when they are exposed to noise from activities such as pile driving and navy exercises.  However, the biological significance of this disturbance is unclear.  Together with other members of a working group funded by the US Office of Naval Research, we have developed a conceptual framework that can be used to forecast the potential population-level consequences of disturbance. Unfortunately, for most marine mammal populations there are insufficient empirical data to parameterise the mathematical functions that underpin this framework.  However, there are a number of situations where regulators urgently require scientific advice on the potential effects of a particular development on specific marine mammal populations.  In order to provide this advice, we have used expert elicitation to obtain estimates of the relevant parameters and the uncertainty associated with these estimates.  In this talk I will describe how we have designed the expert elicitation process and how we have used the results from that process.

    Schick: Approximately 500 North Atlantic right whales remain in the world, and despite decades of protection, their recovery continues to be slow. The migratory corridor in the mid-Atlantic ocean links the calving grounds off the southeastern United States with feeding grounds in and around the Gulf of Maine, yet is one of the most highly industrialised stretches of ocean in the world. Movements of animals through this area are poorly documented. We used expert elicitation to poll experts about two sources of information: 1) the seasonal distribution of right whales in the mid-Atlantic; and 2) certain movement transitions from/to the mid-Atlantic. Here we present results from the elicitation, and document how we will use information from # as priors in a statistical model for movement and health. We highlight important lessons learned - both in terms of how to conduct the elicitation, as well as what types of movement related information remains poorly known. In particular, movements of adult male right whales remains very uncertain. And in general, many experts have little idea of what is happening for right whales in the mid-Atlantic.

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