Biometrician


As a biometrician, you are a biological statistician. As part of a team, you work with other professionals, such as biologists and foresters, to design sampling and experimental programs that address specific scientific questions. You will often be involved in analyzing, interpreting, and presenting numerical information to policy makers to inform land use and resource management decisions. You approach projects and experiments from a mathematical perspective using statistical analysis to answer questions in the biological field.

At a glance

Imagine you are in a large boardroom listening intently as an evergreen pest problem is outlined. You are a biometrician; joining you around the table are an entomologist, an ecotoxicologist, and a couple of chemists. You are part of a team that will be testing a new insecticide developed to control pest populations that are damaging some of Manitoba's evergreen forests. As a biometrician, you specialize in number crunching, which means you play a vital role in developing experimental protocols. As a member of this evaluation team, you will be responsible for designing the part of the experiment that details the kind of data that will be collected, how it will be collected, and how this data will be analyzed. You approach this experiment from a mathematical perspective using statistical analysis to answer the question: does this insecticide really work? As a team, your group has put together the experiment's design, including the variables, parameters, trial size, and replication. Now you start to work on the quantitative methodology that will actually measure the effect this insecticide has on pest populations. First, you must decide what data is to be collected, for example the number of living insects as a function of time. With insect populations, though, it isn't practical to count every single one, so you must also develop a suitable method for collecting that data. Once this is done, you will also design and build a database to capture and store the data. Finally, you will use statistical theory and sophisticated modelling software to analyze and identify trends within the collected data. Your job is to mathematically interpret, extrapolate, and explain the effects this spray has had on the numbers of pests plaguing the evergreen trees.

Job duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a biometrician:
  • Design methods of obtaining sample data, such as field surveys and experiments.
  • Identify parameters or elements that define the population, ecosystem, or subject under investigation.
  • Devise alternative statistical methods to deal with atypical data where traditional statistical techniques cannot be used.
  • Develop and maintain databases for collecting and storing data prior to analysis.
  • Prepare and verify data for analysis and sharing.
  • Develop quality assurance systems to ensure the data?s integrity.
  • Identify factors that could potentially affect research results and devise ways to take these factors into consideration when designing experiments.
  • Create and test statistical and numerical models to test hypotheses, study system behaviour, describe trends, and identify research needs.
  • Provide training on analytical methods to staff and students.
  • Participate on decision-making teams or advise decision makers on the appropriate use of statistical information.
  • Author and co-author reports for publication.

Work environment

Biometricians work in a variety of locations including but not limited to: In the office:
  • Managing data and developing models
  • Researching and analyzing data, and preparing reports and writing papers
  • Presenting research results and providing advice to other scientists and decision makers
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
  • Researching scientific literature and consulting with other professionals
In the field:
  • Travelling and presenting information to colleagues, stakeholders, and policy-makers
  • Conducting research and visiting experiment sites
  • Attending and presenting at conferences and meetings

Where to work

There are a number of places biometricians can find employment. They include:
  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal governments
  • Environmental research and testing companies
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Colleges, universities, and research institutes
  • Public opinion survey firms

Education & requirements

If you are a high school student considering a career as a biometrician, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • English
  • Computer Science
  • Calculus
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a biometrician is a university graduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as biometrician, the following programs are most applicable:
  • Mathematics
  • Biochemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • General Science
In addition to the above programs, most biometricians do graduate programs in statistics or mathematics with a concentration in computer applications. Although it is not necessary to become certified in order to work as a biometrician, many practitioners choose to belong to professional organizations or apply for the Professional Statistician designation. The requirements for professional status vary among provinces.

Role Model

Brian McLaren

For Brian McLaren, what makes each working day exciting is the variability of his work and the range of studies he participates in. Brian works for the Newfoundland Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods. His work often takes him into the field. He has worked on wildlife investigations such as the effect of low-level military flights on osprey populations or the archival of the first muskox seen in Northern Labrador. "The satisfaction results from completing your studies successfully. You know that the results of the studies can improve management of a habitat or a species or make sure a game quota has been set properly. I get satisfaction from knowing that the correct amount of habitat for an endangered species has been set-these are the sort of questions a biometrician gets involved in answering." Brian took the usual route to his position-long years of university study, a B.Sc. in biogeography from the University of Toronto, then a Ph.D. from Michigan Technological University. In Michigan, he studied wolves and moose and changes to the forest. "It is very fulfilling work, and a career that contributes to the betterment of the environment and sustainable wildlife populations. If you have an aptitude for math, this is an excellent profession. I can focus both on being a good biologist, and on being good with math first of all."