Fish are not like trees

23 February, 2021

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Kath Large joined the Dragonfly team in February as a fisheries scientist. She says fish are really hard to count because unlike trees, they are hidden underwater and move around all the time.

“We often use statistical models to make sense of a complex marine environment but rely on only knowing some parts of the picture. I feel a real responsibility to be clear about the assumptions we make and why, so people can see what we actually know and what we’re making up.”

About 10 years ago Kath changed career and went back to university to study science. She has since completed a Masters in Statistics and spent 8 years working in fisheries science. This included collecting data in longline, dredge and trawl surveys at sea, analyses of fisheries datasets, and modelling for fish stock assessments.

“I actually have quite a deep mistrust of statistics and how they are deployed. How does someone like me understand the numbers that come out of the media? What do they mean and how do I know they’re true?”

That attitude has seen Kath retain a strong commitment to communicating the stories behind the statistics. That way, she says, people are better informed about what models are based on and how they can interpret the findings.

Kath was attracted to working at Dragonfly because of the company’s use of reproducible methods and an emphasis on science being useful. She also likes Dragonfly’s commitment to being a fair and equitable workplace.

“We design fish surveys and population models so they are representative of the range of individuals and the environment we’re researching. Maybe the same goes for how we understand our world? I wonder what great ideas we might miss if the people doing the science do not reflect the diversity of our community.”