Aosta [course+hike 2]

The course on Bayesian data analysis for ecologists is a very interesting moment in that all twentysome participants are there with a specific goal. These young researchers came to the course with their ecology, biology or genetic problem(s) and this really helps in focussing their approach to the general theory. This also makes for exciting intermission talks, with insufficient time to discuss in depth with all! Actually, this made me think of a post-course workshop where we would process case studies with the same participants and get a proper assessment of the true impact of the course… The research topic of the participants to the course range from animal population studies, including capture-recapture experiments, to genetic analyses, with a strong emphasis on plylogenies.

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The second day of the course actually was a break of sorts, in that we all hiked to an alpine meadow at 2220m that was like a balcony to the Gran Paradiso peaks. The walk was quite enjoyable as, first, we climbed rather quickly to a high route where the view was terrific and, second, this was the prefect oportunity to get to know more about the participants’ interests and fields of study. Discussing the convergence of MCMC algorithms sitting on a granit slab at 2220m is certainly very close to my ultimate teaching goal! One additional appeal for the hike was to look for ibexes and chamois but, despite the help of a Park ranger, we saw none. However, on the way back, we saw a fox, an animal I have rarely seen in the past. The fact that it was so easily seen means that it lost its natural fear of humans and has unfortunately gotten used to been fed by Park visitors (despite signs explicitely warning against this).

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