The Computational Biodiversity Science and Services (BIOS²) training program is a NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program. BIOS² aims at widening opportunities and skill sets among students and postdoctoral fellows and increasing recruitment in Biodiversity science in the Canadian job market.
More specifically, we aim to train the next generation of highly qualified professionals and researchers in quantitative ecology to:
- Monitor, analyze, predict, and act on biodiversity change issues using cutting edge computational technology.
- Lead data-driven collaborative, multidisciplinary and cross-sectorial research in biodiversity science.
- Have a high-impact career in biodiversity science.
BIOS² will foster a new culture in ecoinformatics that will bring technologies and methods accessible for the new generation of stakeholders and decision makers.
The end goal of the BIOS² training program is to enhance the capacity of Canadian organizations to evaluate the status of biodiversity and to incorporate biodiversity scenarios into decision-making. A global strategy, built on collaborative efforts between scientists, governments, private industries and NGOs, is required to meet this objective.
Inter-university and cross-sectorial collaborative initiative
The challenge of sustainable development in Canada requires an interdisciplinary approach, with an eye towards job security, protection of the environment, healthy communities, and culturally diverse perspectives.
Similarly, when we conceived the team of scientists and collaborators at the core of BIOS² program, we aimed to diversify institutions, expertise, background and interests. BIOS² is a join initiative between Concordia University, Université de Montréal, Université de Sherbrooke, UQAM, UQAR, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia and University McGill. Our team consists of world leaders in ecology and evolution in terrestrial, marine and aquatic systems, from the tropics to the Canadian Arctic, who use modern techniques such as next generation sequencing, highly advanced statistics, mathematics, simulation modeling and computer science.
The diversity of supporting organizations, collaborators and partners is also a strong asset for interdisciplinary training experience, including all levels of government (local, regional, provincial, federal), NGOs, biodiversity monitoring programs, citizen science, as well as heavy industry.
Need for training program in computational biodiversity
The rise of advanced and freely available software has made new analytical tools readily available for biodiversity assessments. The shortfall in computational, analytical and mathematical literacy can, however, inhibit the implementation of advanced data science approaches to solve environmental problems or increase the risk of misguided usage.
Given the trend for more quantitative research in biodiversity science, one might expect current students to receive the required training level in mathematics, statistics, bioinformatics and programming for today’s biodiversity science needs. This is not the case, as shown by a recent survey of early career ecologists. It was found that 75% of the respondents were not satisfied with their understanding of mathematical models and 95% were looking for further training in statistics.
Our partners expect our trainees to lead data-driven collaborative projects once they integrate the Canadian job market so they can :
- Improve the process of biodiversity monitoring and assessment;
- Increase transparency, impartiality, and credibility of their activities in the field;
- Provide integrative and data-driven solutions to biodiversity related challenges.
Students of BIOS² will acquire and develop expertise to meet partners expectation by actively participating in the activities of the program.
Technical and professional skills development
The BIOS² training program is designed to facilitate the transition of the trainees towards non-academic sectors. Internships, problem-solving workshops, continuous training of partners and specific training sessions are all activities that will get fellows in contact with future employers, improve their networking and communication skills and provide them a better understanding of the expectations and roles they will have once in the Canadian workforce.
We propose a training program structured around three complementary axes (knowledge, professionnel skills and attitude) that will provide essential skills to handle, analyse and link large volumes of various sources of biodiversity information in a professional environment.
Photo credits: Banner – Timothée Poisot