2007 VIGRE Graduate Student Travel Fund Recipients

Nate Coehlo

This summer I went to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for the annual meeting of the Tiawan-America Occultation Survey (TAOS). The meeting was attended by people from several countries, involved with all aspects of the project. In the talks I learned about the instrumentation that collects the data, the photometry that turns the telescope images into the the individual light-curves, the database structure for the light curves, and the many statistical issues that arise when addressing the scientific questions of the project. I also set up accounts so I can access the data from Berkeley. The meeting gave great context for the data, and a clear picture of where a Statistician can contribute. I thank VIGRE for helping fund this trip.

Peter Ralph

To further my understanding of current issues in population genetics and related areas, I attended the 2007 meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists. The four days of talks and posters really helped to give me a sense of today’s organismal biologists’ and ecologists’ motivations and methods, both a broad view and in certain small details, in a way I could not have by only reading papers or talking to a few individuals at Berkeley.

There were organized sessions on many aspects of mammalogy, from behavior to systematics, but many of the talks that I attended were in the area of “phylogeography”, in which the goal is to infer relatively recent aspects of species history and geography, mostly from genetic data. This is an interesting area, statistically, because in some ways it falls between the intended scopes of established phylogenetic and population genetics tools. The talks and posters provided an excellent opportunity to first get an overview of what the authors regarded as the important questions and results, and then engage them in discussion to find out the underlying data sources and statistical problems.