SLU news

SLU scientist won a prize for ‘Ignorance mapping’

Published: 27 October 2016

Method developed by Alejandro Ruete seeks to calculate “Where and when is data enough?”

Alejandro Ruete, postdoc at the department of Ecology, Uppsala, has won first prize in the 2016 Ebbe Nielsen Challenge for his approach to measuring and comparing the spatial and temporal gaps in biodiversity data. The challenge is arranged by Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

His entry, Exploring ignorance in space and time, earned the top prize of €20,000 upon its selection by an expert jury who reviewed 16 submissions to this year’s Challenge. The incentive prize honours the legacy of Ebbe Nielsen, a Danish entomologist, systematician and principal founder of GBIF, who died unexpectedly en route to the inaugural governing board session in 2001.

“I’m very honoured to be the winner of the 2016 Ebbe Nielsen Challenge, and I thank GBIF for organizing the competition,” said Ruete. “I’m very glad to see my algorithms get used—that is my tiny grain of sand to preserve Nature. I’m especially thankful to my family, because it was mainly on their time that I created this work.”

As part of his submission, Ruete developed two web applications that demonstrate the use of the algorithms. One app, SLWapp, compares the ignorance calculated for seven species groups in Sweden, and the other, GBIFapp, explores ignorance in space and time for amphibians in Europe.

“What made the winning entry so attractive was its simplicity and scalability. It makes few assumptions, and unlike some other entries it only requires simple occurrence data,” said Roderic Page, a University of Glasgow professor and chair of both the Challenge jury and the GBIF Science Committee. “This means the tool can be applied to any geographic region or taxonomic group in the GBIF network.”