Spatial Point Modelling with Prof Janine Illian (#9)


We talk about spatial point modelling and its applications in the areas of ecology, orangutan populations, and COVID.

Professor Janine Illian joined the University of Glasgow as Chair in Statistical Sciences in 2019. Prior to this, she was a senior lecturer in statistics and Head of Statistics, within the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of St Andrews. She held a Professor II position at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, 2013-2016.

Her work focuses on spatial point process methodology and she is the author of “Statistical Analysis and Modelling of Spatial Point Patterns” (Wiley, 2008), which has become a standard work on point process modelling since its publication. Her research profile focuses on the development of modern, realistically complex, spatial statistical methodology that is both computationally feasible and relevant to end-users. She has taken spatial point processes from the theoretical literature into the real world and encouraging statistical development by fostering strong relationships with the user community.

Her research has impacted on spatial modelling and biodiversity research in the context of ecology, and she has diversified to applications in crime modelling, earthquake forecasting, environmental modelling and terrorism studies.

In our conversation, we talk about spatial point modelling and its applications in the areas of ecology, orangutan populations, and COVID.

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Show Notes

[00:52] What drew Janine to the field of mathematics
[01:15] Discovering statistics through psychology
[02:31] Discovering her interest in ecological statistics
[03:56] The applications of statistical modelling in ecology
[04:22] Applied spatial modelling for environments
[05:45] Modelling for present/historical analysis as well as projections
[06:17] Crane populations in the UK
[07:32] Collaborating with ecologists in the field
[10:01] Learning ecological sciences as a statistician
[11:08] Coming from outside the discipline gives a fresh perspective
[12:36] Travelling to Perth, Australia for her PhD
[13:00] Studying plant communities with high biodiversity such as the fire-adapted flora in Australia
[14:54] Moving towards high biodiversity rainforest related work
[15:19] How Janine finds her diverse research topics
[17:38] Some research just requires a multidisciplinary approach
[18:49] Collaborating on COVID modelling
[21:22] The consortium started in Scotland and just grew
[22:09] The geographic scope of the modelling
[23:09] The factors that add complexity to models
[25:02] World of Warcraft’s Corrupted Blood Incident
[25:49] Connectedness factors in modelling
[27:08] Terrain as a factor
[27:52] Orangutan populations in Malaysia
[32:09] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[33:11] Janine’s roots contributed to an interdisciplinary career
[33:48] Thoughts on Janine’s psychology background
[34:53] How a psychology background contributes to Janine’s current work
[36:40] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[38:12] Using her favourite book to learn languages
[38:56] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[40:55] Theoretical vs applied methodologies
[44:04] Reflecting on where her work has taken her

Topics/Resources/People Mentioned


  • Illian, J., Møller, J., & Waagepetersen, R. (2007). Spatial point process analysis for a plant community with high biodiversity. Environmental and Ecological Statistics, 16, 389--405.


  • Pippi Longstocking (Puffin Modern Classics) by Astrid Lindgren BookDepository GoodReads
  • Mio, mein Mio by Astrid Lindgren BookDepository GoodReads
  • Statistical Analysis and Modelling of Spatial Point Patterns by Janine Illian, Antti Penttinen, Helga Stoyan, and Dietrich Stoyan BookDepository GoodReads

Additional Notes

I had mentioned that the CDC had reached out to Blizzard regarding the Corrupted Blood Incident for research on epidemics. There’s a little bit more to this than what I mentioned as it appears Blizzard had confirmed to them that it was just ‘a glitch’. The event however has since been referenced in related research on epidemics, terrorism, and to an extent, sociology. You can read more about this incident and modelling for epidemic research here.

Also, I said the Corrupted Blood Incident was ‘a few years ago’ when it was actually 2005. Yeah, I got nothing.

Find out more about Prof Janine Illian and their work

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