Carl Schwarz, SSC Award for Impact of Applied and Collaborative Work 2017

SSC 2017 Impact Award Winner
SSC Award for Impact of Applied and Collaborative Work
2017

The 2017 recipient of the Statistical Society of Canada Award for Impact of Applied and Collaborative Work is Professor Carl Schwarz, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Simon Fraser University. The award recognizes outstanding contributions by a member of the SSC in collaborative research and applied work, the importance of which derives primarily from its relatively recent impact on a subject area outside of the statistical sciences, on an area of application, or on an organization.


Born and raised in Winnipeg, Carl has a long association with the University of Manitoba. The relationship dates back to a six-week, summer residency program in French immersion at the end of Grade 12 where he met his future wife, Lois. Carl completed both BSc and MSc degrees in computing science at the University of Manitoba before refocusing on statistics in a Masters degree at the University of Waterloo. Carl then spent three years in Toronto working as a statistician for the Research Division of Ontario Hydro. He then returned to Winnipeg where he completed his PhD in ecological statistics at the University of Manitoba under the supervision of Dr. Neil Arnason. Carl went on to accept a faculty position at the University of Manitoba where he established his reputation as a leading researcher in ecological statistics. 

Shortly after spending a sabbatical leave at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, BC, Carl joined the burgeoning statistics group in Simon Fraser University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics in 1994. He soon played a pivotal role as Chair of the newly created Statistics and Actuarial Science Department for three years, starting just one year after its creation in 2000. He has also provided valuable service over many years to Simon Fraser University’s Faculty Association, and was instrumental in the creation of the Statistical Society of Canada’s professional accreditation program. 

Carl and Lois took their three children, Matthew, Marianne, and David on adventurous sabbaticals. In Carl’s words, “We (and our family) really enjoyed our study leaves in New Zealand at the University of Auckland and in Australia at James Cook University in Townsville. While home is always nice, the opportunity to stretch your and your family’s horizons is always wonderful. Both of us enjoyed the welcoming attitude of the host university’s faculty and families. Our family enjoyed the natural beauty of the two countries and the native flora and fauna. These were great adventures that really brought us together -- how often do you get to sit together in sand on Hot Water beach in NZ with the warm spring water coming up against the fresh ocean waves, or camp in the Outback together under a starry night with kangaroos and wallabies wandering around your tent!  We hope we can be as hospitable here for our visitors.”

An avid cyclist, Carl can often be seen with his mountain bike on the steep trails up to Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus. Carl has even cycled, in stages, almost all of the arduous BC section of the Trans Canada Trail. He also enjoys unusually adventuresome hiking. Last year, he completed a trek in Nepal whose high point gave him a view down onto the Mt. Everest base camp.  

As an ecological statistician, Carl develops methods to study the demographics of wild animal populations. He collaborates with both fisheries and wildlife biologists, applying and developing methods for studying animals from chinook salmon to grizzly bears. He has also been involved in the study of the northern spotted owl. Decimated by extensive destruction of its habitat (old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest), this owl is currently on the US threatened species list and is considered endangered under BC’s Wildlife Act. 

Carl’s main research area is the design and analysis of capture-recapture studies. These studies provide population information through the repeated capture of marked individuals. They are commonly used in wildlife research when a complete population census is not possible. They provide information about changes in population size; vital rates, including birth and death rates; animal movements in space; and the factors that affect these processes.

As a statistical consultant, Carl also works with government and industry to improve study designs and analyses in real world settings. Dedicated to helping wildlife managers and other applied researchers to improve their knowledge of statistics, he regularly teaches short courses on survey sampling techniques, experimental design, and statistical analysis for a variety of government organizations in Canada. Carl’s excellence as a teacher is exemplified by his receipt of three teaching awards, including Simon Fraser University’s 2012 university-wide Excellence in Teaching Award. 

The citation for the award reads: 

“To Carl Schwarz, for world renowned expertise in the field of ecological statistics; for work that has broadly impacted methods for monitoring and managing threatened animal populations; for founding and championing the Statistical Society of Canada’s professional accreditation program; and for dedicated and exceptional teaching with a focus on real world applications of statistics.”

 

Thanks to Laura Cowen, Rachel Altman and Simon Bonner, who were primarily responsible for producing this material.