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Duncan Greenhill
Works at University of Leicester
Lives in Birmingham, UK
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Duncan Greenhill

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New blog post on assessment: Striving for a personal best – who judges?
In this post I'm going to look at some of the issues surrounding a form of assessment you're probably familiar with, but not with the terminology that goes with it: ipsative assessment. So what is ...
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Duncan Greenhill

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A brighter future for the shy albatross

Predicting the future is a tricky business.  As then United States Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld famously said “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know” .  Then there is the interactions between all the variables that determine the outcome of a particular event.  However, few things work in isolation and species decline often results from the accumulation of different stressors.  If we want to put in place conservation management measures that are effective in the long term, then we need to be able to put our known (and measurable) stressors together and figure out what, cumulatively they mean for our potentially at risk species. 

The shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) is an endemic to Australia, breeding on just three Tasmanian islands, including the aptly named Albatross Island.  The albatross of Albatross Island have a long history of human interest.  In the early 19th century adult albatross were extensively hunted for their feathers and egg, taking their numbers down from an estimated 11,100 pairs to just 400.  The population is now recovering, but still faces a number of possible threats.  High on this list are two issues – changing climatic conditions, and the accidental capture of the albatross in longline and trawl fisheries.  To understand just what the combined impact of these stressors could mean for this vulnerable bird, Robin Thomson and colleagues from +CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research​​​, together with the Tasmanian Government Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (DPIPWE) put together a model that can hopefully direct management to ensure these birds survive in the long term.

Building a model
Models need data, and fortunately the researchers were able to access some good sources.  Fishing effort from longline and trawls was obtained from the +Australian Fisheries Management Authority​​​.  There isn’t much in the way of specific data on actual bycatch levels of the albatross, so instead the researchers used the best available data they had to make a conservative estimate of the level of bycatch.  Data on the albatross themselves came from two sources.  In 1980, the DPIPWE started an annual monitoring program of the albatross, providing the researchers with 20 years-worth of data.  DPIPWE also undertook some foraging studies which, alongside data from +BirdLife International​​​, provided tracking data (e.g. where the birds went whilst at sea) which could be used to see where fisheries and the birds overlap.  For environmental variables, they used a host of different sources to obtain historical information on rainfall, maximum daily temperatures, sea surface height anomaly, as well as climate projections.  The researchers set about building a seabird population model, and placed it into an “integrated modelling framework”, which essentially involves using a variety of equations and statistical analysis to see what the population of albatross might look like in the future.  If you are interested in how models are created, have a read of the methods section in the open access paper (see link below).

All models are wrong, (but some are useful) 
The thing about models is that they are a simplified version of what really happens in the real world.  We put in the data we have, and try replicate something very similar to what we observe in the real world.  For the stuff we know about but have no data on… well that can be exceedingly tricky if not impossible to put into a working model.  As for the stuff we don’t know about… well no model can be perfect.  The researchers highlight a number of things that they would have liked to be able to model better.  This includes the level of shy albatross bycatch, but also other factors like disease, especially avian pox which has historically impacted the breeding colony.  Despite these issues, the model does stand up to what we have seen in the real world, producing results that could be validated with actual observations (hindcasting).

(All models are wrong) , but some are useful.  AKA What did we learn?
The model was able to confirm that both climate change and the estimated bycatch levels do impact the population of albatross.  Crucially the model also showed that with our changing climate, the situation is likely to get worse for the shy albatross, primarily because increasing temperatures and increasing rainfall are likely to hamper breeding success.  Even if we were to address all of the anthropogenic causes of climate change overnight, climate change will still happen because there is a lag between our actions and how the climate reacts.  Fortunately all is not lost, and with good fisheries management we can help the shy albatross of Albatross Island out.  Reducing bycatch is a very good move for this population of ocean wanderers.  How much we need to reduce the bycatch by is a good question, and one answered by the model – around 50%.  Exactly how this could be achieved is another topic altogether. 

Read the research for yourself
The paper was published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.  You can have a read of the research yourself by heading here http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127006

Image:  This photograph of a shy albatross was taken by John Harrison at the east of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia.  John tells us that this bird is slightly unusual as it’s beak is very yellow.  John has put this and many other photographs on Wikipedia – have a look at his profile here http://ow.ly/OAqYy

#marinescience #sciencesunday #albatross #seabirds #climatechange #fisheries #bycatch #openaccess
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Thanks for sharing! 
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Duncan Greenhill

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UK education policy - file under "didn't think this through", from @miss_mcinerney
"Children who don’t want to study a subject will now have to be taught it, in many cases by a teacher unfamiliar with the topic, even though we have seen no evidence as to why these subjects must be compulsory."
Ministers’ plans will mean GCSE pupils studying subjects they don’t want to, taught by teachers unfamiliar with the topic
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The idea of becoming a growth mindset school has been over a year in the making. Our Headteacher bought each member of SLT a copy of Mindset for Christmas, and it was the main agenda item at our an...
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Duncan Greenhill

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There's been a bit of a kerfuffle over a maths exam last week. This is my take on that question:
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This article was originally published on Kris Shaffer's blog on May 13, 2015. Dr. Shaffer will be offering a three-week online course, "The Flipped Classroom", starting July 19, 2015 through Digita...
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Question number two:
"The second, even if we reach the conclusion that discrete subjects remain essential to organising the delivery of a wide range of complex disciplines, how best do we develop young people’s ability to see across these disciplines and to understand the inter-relatedness of all human knowledge and learning?"
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Wikipedia: Support for Schools http://t.co/lRQCLude4n #digilit #digilitleic

Leicester City Council currently has a tender out for an amazing project - working with schools to create Wikipedia focused games-based learning resources! 
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New blog post on assessment - what are we measuring and what does it mean?
The second post in this short series is going to be about assessment in general. How reliable is it? What are we actually trying to measure? Are we more concerned with how we measure rather than wh...
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Duncan Greenhill

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Fuming today about this. We have enough issues trying to reach out to those who are less than enthusiastic about online and blended learning without being undermined by entirely avoidable **-ups like this.
I used to think the main problem with Blackboard was that it applied an enterprise solution to a consumer software problem. I increasingly think the main problem is that it's just lousy enterprise ...
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The way Blackboard failed to deal with this is so discouraging. And they want us to trust them with their data analytics to manage student learning...? This shows once again why faculty risk a lot by putting their trust in untrustworthy, clunky, faux tools inside the LMS when they could be sharing content in normal ways on the Internet. YouTube gives you wants to embed the videos in blogs, webpages, whatever, even via Twitter widgets, having your own YouTube channel. I benefit from all that REAL stuff, and I avoid the fake tools inside the LMS. I use the LMS for students to keep track of their grades, and that's it. Nothing else. I prefer the real Internet, thank you....
Meanwhile, I feel so sorry for the faculty and students who are having their learning "disrupted" in this way because of Blackboard's incompetence. Nobody has time to waste like this.
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eLearning technologist, interested in oceans and the environment
Introduction
My curiosity noses into many fields: eLearning and education professionally, the oceans and environment personally (I have degrees in marine biology and environmental science). Also a big fan of the open source ethos (in computer science and in education). Linux user (Kubuntu). Web developer and sometimes python coder. Always curious, always learning.
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    Web Resources Development Officer, present
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