Adaptive management of migratory birds

We have a new paper published at IJCAI (top Artificial Intelligence conference, ranked A*, probably the most selective conference, congratulations to Sam and team!).

Nicol S, Buffet O, Iwamura T, Chadès I (2013). Adaptive management of migratory birds under sea level rise. Proceedings of IJCAI-13, Beijing, China. (PDF);

Or read the blog version on the computational sustainability website.

In this paper we are posing an adaptive management challenge to the AI community:

  • Why do we care? Because solving adaptive management problem is a complex optimisation problem and efficient methods are lacking!
  • What are we hoping? We hope that future AI research will account for the specific description of adaptive management problems using our problem as a classic benchmark problem.
  • How can you help, what’s next? If you have a complex problem feel free to submit a challenge to the AI community!


Sam at IJCAI 2013
Sam at IJCAI 2013 – Photo: O. Buffet

Migratory connectivity magnifies habitat loss

Graph representing the migratory flyway of the eastern curlew

Tak‘s paper is out! Don’t miss the bottleneck index that we derived – a handy tool to predict the most important nodes.

Iwamura, T., Possingham, H.,  Chadès, I., Minton, C., Murray, N., Rogers, D., Treml, E., Fuller, R. (2013) Migratory connectivity magnifies the consequences of habitat loss from sea-level rise for shorebird populations Proc R Soc B 280: 20130325


Sea-level rise (SLR) will greatly alter littoral ecosystems, causing habitat change and loss for coastal species. Habitat loss is widely used as a measurement of the risk of extinction, but because many coastal species are migratory, the impact of habitat loss will depend not only on its extent, but also on where it occurs. Here, we develop a novel graph-theoretic approach to measure the Continue reading Migratory connectivity magnifies habitat loss

The conservation decisions team has a new team leader!

That is now official, I am the new team leader of the conservation decisions team and we will be hiring this year! So stay tuned if you are looking for a wicked postdoc position in adaptive management/computational sustainability!


New paper out: Growing biodiverse carbon-rich forests

Congratulations to JB Pichancourt and team: An excellent work in an excellent journal! Feel free to contact JB directly if you require additional information on our paper.Pichancourt, JB; Firn, J,; Chades, I.; Martin T.G. 2013. Growing Biodiverse Carbon-Rich Forests. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12345

Regrowing forests on cleared land is a key strategy to achieve both biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation globally. Maximizing these co-benefits, however, remains theoretically and technically challenging because of the complex relationship between carbon sequestration and biodiversity in forests, the strong influence of climate variability and landscape position on forest development, the large number of restoration strategies possible, and long time-frames needed to declare success.Through the synthesis of three decades of knowledge on forest dynamics and plant functional traits combined with decision science, we demonstrate that we cannot always maximize carbon sequestration by simply increasing the functional trait diversity of trees planted. Continue reading New paper out: Growing biodiverse carbon-rich forests

My ICCB talk is available online

A small post from Baltimore, I gave my talk this morning and I have been asked for the slides. I had many interesting feedback for this talk. I will try to account for as many as I can. Thanks!


Eliciting expert opinion and the 4-point estimates method

I’m currently involved in 3 projects where data is not available but we still need to provide guidance to managers on what action will be most efficient. In such cases, we have no choice but eliciting information from experts. There are many ways of proceeding, and you can find relevant information on google, but I still find that the details of how exactly doing it isn’t written anywhere. I feel that there is a big part of non-written way of proceeding that would benefit many of us. So if you are an expert in expert elicitation, please write us a guide – e.g. not another review!

For example we had trouble using 4-point estimates* data, and explaining to our experts what the confidence value represented. We did explain it many times, but we still get errors when we analyze the data. I do feel sorry for our experts that constantly have to rethink their values.

Beta distribution corresponding to the 4-point estimates
Beta distribution corresponding to the 4-point estimates

With internship student Martin Peron, we have developed a program to fit beta distribution to 4-point estimates. We are hoping to submit this program to MATLAB exchange very soon (and GNU Octave). So stay tuned if you are looking for such a program!

* 4 point estimates: best guess, min, max and confidence that the true value of the parameter we are estimating lies in this interval.


I’m heading to ICCB very soon. I am looking forward to seeing motivating presentations and exchanging ideas.

Does influence matters?

I will present my current work on organizing social networks to achieve best biodiversity outcome (Monday 21st). I’m also involved in a project with Jonathan Rhodes in which we try to assess the importance of influence in networks. More on our symposium here.

Feel free to send me an email if you want to chat, I will have some time in between sessions!

After ICCB I’m heading to Europe and France. I will work with my colleagues from INRIA – Olivier, in particular. I can’t wait to challenge him with some complex problems we have no solutions for!

In the meantime Sam will present our last piece of work at IJCAI (Beijing).

Good news

I had good news yesterday.

1) I received a Julius Career Award to help me doing my research on adaptive management over the next 3 years and in particular a 6-month sabbatical.

2) We made substantial progress on our research project where we are trying to find the best social network for a given ecological network. We spent the day brainstorming and programming with Sam Nicol, Shaun Coutts and Angela. Jesse Hoey has been very helpful too and kindly updated SPUDD for the purpose of this study. I feel that this project has the potential to be a kick-ass paper. It feels great to do some cool fresh science!

3) I’m also the new Team Leader of our Conservation Decisions team. I hope I can keep managing my time efficiently so that I can produce good science and mentoring to the team.

I’m off to ICCB in 15 days (Baltimore) and then France for more adaptive management research!


A busy month ahead

I’m trying to start and finish a project in the next month. The project involves a lot of thinking and programming. I’m trying to solve a large action space Factored MDP. It’s challenging because the actions can’t be factored. It’s almost a flat MDP.
I’m hoping that the results will be easily interpretable. There is no point finding an optimal solution if I can’t explain it :-)
I’ll try to report the progress I make as we go.

Expert elicitation and priority threat management in the Pilbara

This year, our team has been working on a cost benefit analysis project to determine the priority threat management options to protect the listed species of the Pilbara, WA.

Part of our project consists in gathering data from different sources, published and grey literature, and most importantly experts knowledge. We ran an anonymous expert elicitation workshop in March 2013 to gather the critical information needed for our project.

When running an expert elicitation exercise it is recommended that experts remain anonymous so that bias is limited when collecting the expert knowledge (benefit estimates, in this case). Once the preliminary analysis is done and individual mistakes are corrected, it is important to provide a way of discussing the results as a group so that additional information can be exchanged and informed discussion can lead to less divergence in opinions.

To set up that discussion phase and maintain an anonymous process, we have set up a forum for our experts to comment and discuss the current group trends and divergence. We’ve had a couple of responses to our forum from contributors who said that they’d appreciate more information about how to use the forum. In response I recorded a quick video that captures my screen as I go through the features of the forum. The video is available on YouTube, and can be accessed at the link below. You can play this video full screen and you can also increase the quality to High Definition (HD).


Complex decisions made simple

We recently had a paper accepted in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. I can’t say too much about it yet, but I hope it will be well received and useful to many. Well done Lucile and team!

Marescot L., Chapron G., Chadès I., Fackler P.L., Duchamp C., Marboutin E. & Gimenez, O. (Accepted 10/06/2013) Complex decisions made simple: a primer on stochastic dynamic programming. Methods in Ecology and Evolution.