Dr Ben Courtney Stevenson

PhD, University of St Andrews

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I completed BSc (Hons) and MSc degrees at the University of Auckland before moving to the University of St Andrews, United Kingdom, where I graduated with a PhD in 2016. I remained at St Andrews for a twelve-month research fellowship, joining this department in January 2017. 

Please see my personal webpage for further information.


Research | Current

I develop statistical methods and software to estimate ecological parameters of interest, usually animal abundance or density. My recent work has met statistical challenges that arise when instruments like microphones, video-cameras, and drones are deployed to detect animals on wildlife surveys. New technologies have the potential to collect mountains of data at a low cost, but complicate estimation of ecological parameters because less information is encoded within each detection. For example, we can easily identify an individual on a live-trapping survey via a securely fixed ID tag, but perhaps cannot do so from a fleeting glimpse in a video.

I have additional research interests in spatial point processes, statistical computing, and applied statistics in general. My work in these areas sometimes overlaps with ecology, but has also led to publications in the fields of medicine and veterinary science.

Teaching | Current

Semester 2, 2020: STATS 10X

Semester 1, 2021: STATS 399
Semester 2, 2021: STATS 399

Postgraduate supervision

To see a list of available available projects, click here. Some of these may not yet appear on the department's list.

Current students:


Edy Setyawan
Investigating the movement ecology, feeding behaviour, and genetic structure of a meta-population of reef manta rays Mobula alfredi in Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Cosupervisors: Rochelle Constantine and Mark Erdmann

Pei (Zoe) Luo
Two-phase subsampling designs for DNA sequencing, with an application to the relatedness in endangered species
Cosupervisor: Thomas Lumley

David Chan
Advancing spatial capture-recapture methods for acoustic surveys of cetacean populations
Cosupervisor: Rachel Fewster

Markus Gronwald
Behaviour of invasive rat species in low population densities on islands
Cosupervisor: James Russell

Summer Research Student

Alec van Helsdingen
Modelling reef manta ray movement in Raja Ampat, Indonesia​
Cosupervisor: Edy Setyawan

Areas of expertise

Ecological statistics, capture-recapture, statistical computing, spatial point processes.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Samaniego, A., Griffiths, R., Gronwald, M., Holmes, N. D., Oppel, S., Stevenson, B. C., & Russell, J. C. (2020). Risks posed by rat reproduction and diet to eradications on tropical islands. BIOLOGICAL INVASIONS, 22 (4), 1365-1378. 10.1007/s10530-019-02188-2
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/50621
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: James Russell
  • Jones-Todd, C. M., Caie, P., Illian, J. B., Stevenson, B. C., Savage, A., Harrison, D. J., & Bown, J. L. (2019). Identifying prognostic structural features in tissue sections of colon cancer patients using point pattern analysis. Statistics in medicine, 38 (8), 1421-1441. 10.1002/sim.8046
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Charlotte Jones-Todd
  • Stevenson, B. C., Borchers, D. L., & Fewster, R. M. (2019). Cluster capture-recapture to account for identification uncertainty on aerial surveys of animal populations. Biometrics, 75 (1), 326-336. 10.1111/biom.12983
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rachel Fewster
  • Baron, H. R., Leung, K. C. L., Stevenson, B. C., Sabater Gonzalez, M., & Phalen, D. N. (2018). Evidence of amphotericin B resistance in Macrorhabdus ornithogaster in Australian cage-birds. Medical Mycology, 57 (4), 421-428. 10.1093/mmy/myy062
  • Measey, G. J., Stevenson, B. C., Scott, T., Altwegg, R., & Borchers, D. L. (2017). Counting chirps: Acoustic monitoring of cryptic frogs. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54 (3), 894-902. 10.1111/1365-2664.12810
  • Kidney, D., Rawson, B. M., Borchers, D. L., Stevenson, B. C., Marques, T. A., & Thomas, L. (2016). An efficient acoustic density estimation method with human detectors applied to gibbons in Cambodia. PLoS ONE, 11 (5)10.1371/journal.pone.0155066
  • Fewster, R. M., Stevenson, B. C., & Borchers, D. L. (2016). Trace-contrast models for capture–recapture without capture histories. Statistical Science, 31 (2), 245-258. 10.1214/16-STS551
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rachel Fewster
  • Borchers, D. L., Stevenson, B. C., Kidney, D., Thomas, L., & Marques, T. A. (2015). A Unifying Model for Capture–Recapture and Distance Sampling Surveys of Wildlife Populations. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 110 (509), 195-204. 10.1080/01621459.2014.893884

Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 303 - Bldg 303
Level 3, Room 326
New Zealand

Web links