Archive for Gran Paradiso

Rifugio Vittorio Sella al Lauson

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2016 by xi'an

valnontey valleyTo sort of make up for the failed attempt at Monte Rosa, we stayed an extra day and took a hike in Vale d’Aosta, starting from Cogne where we had a summer school a few years ago. And from where we started for another failed attempt at La Grivola. It was a brilliant day and we climbed to the Rifugio Vittorio Stella (2588m) [along with many many other hikers], then lost the crowds to the Colle della Rossa (3195m), which meant a 1700m easy climb. By the end of the valley, we came across steinbocks (aka bouquetins, stambecchi) resting in the sun by a creek and unfazed by our cameras. (Abele Blanc told us later that they are usually staying there, licking whatever salt they can find on the stones.)

steinbocks near Colle della Rossa, Aosta, Jul 16, 2016 near Rifugio Vittorio Stella, Aosta, Jul 16, 2016

The final climb to the pass was a bit steeper but enormously rewarding, with views of the Western Swiss Alps in full glory (Matterhorn, Combin, Breithorn) and all to ourselves. From there it was a downhill hike all the way back to our car in Cogne, 1700m, with no technical difficulty once we had crossed the few hundred meters of residual snow. And with the added reward of seeing several herds of the shy chamois mountain goat.

end of the plateau, Rifugio Vittorio Stella, Aosta, July 16, 2016Except that my daughter’s rental mountaineering shoes started to make themselves heard and that she could barely walk downwards. (She eventually lost her big toe nails!) It thus took us forever to get down (despite me running to the car and back to get lighter shoes) and we came to the car at 8:30, too late to contemplate a drive back to Paris.

view from Colle Della Rossa, Aosta, July 16, 2016

10w2170, Banff

Posted in Books, Mountains, R, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2010 by xi'an

Yesterday night, we started the  Hierarchical Bayesian Methods in Ecology workshop by trading stories. Everyone involved in the programme discussed his/her favourite dataset and corresponding expectations from the course. I found the exchange most interesting, like the one we had two years ago in Gran Paradiso, because of the diversity of approaches to Statistics reflected by the exposition. However, a constant theme is the desire to compare and rank models (this term having different meanings for different students) and the understanding that hierarchical models are a superior way to handle heterogeneity and to gather strength from the whole dataset. A two-day workshop is certainly too short to meet students’ expectations and I hope I will manage to focus on the concepts rather than on the maths and computations…

As each time I come here, the efficiency of BIRS in handling the workshop and making everything smooth and running amazes me. Except for the library, I think it really compares with Oberwolfach in terms of environment and working facilities. (Oberwolfach offers the appeal of seclusion and the Black Forest, while BIRS is providing summits all around plus the range of facility of the Banff Centre and the occasional excitement of a bear crossing the campus or a cougar killing a deer on its outskirt…)

Bayesian Data Analysis for Ecologists [reflections]

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on July 21, 2009 by xi'an

The course I gave last week in the Gran Paradiso National Park was certainly one of the most exciting I ever gave! And not only because of the paradisiac location. Indeed, the young twenty ecologists/biologists/geneticists who attended the course were unbelievably motivated to learn about Bayesian Statistics. They did come to the course with a (strong) purpose and with clear problems and real datasets as well.They were thus ready to endure some of my most theoretical slides to obtain indications for progressing in their own work. Another great point was the repeated will to get beyond black box solutions, even Bayesian black box solutions, to understand the available softwares and possibly to modify them. Towards this goal, I slightly modified the way I usually teach Bayesian Core, in order to replace the standard datasets with three “local” datasets obtained from the park biologist, Achaz von Hardenberg (but not available publicly). Here are the modified slides:

which will mostly be useful to those who attended the course. I am thus very grateful to Achaz von Hardenberg, from the Alpine Wildlife Research Centre, Gran Paradiso National Park, and to Antonietta Mira, from the University of Insubria, who invited me to give this course. My only regret is that we could not cover the types of problems met by the attendees more in depth. Given their diversity and richness, this is rather frustrating! It is thus most likely that we will have a follow-up course in a near future with the same participants based on case studies only, where we can study those problems in thematic groups.

Bayesian Data Analysis [with R] for Ecologists

Posted in Kids, Mountains, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on June 5, 2009 by xi'an

This summer, I will give a short course on the above in a terrific place, the Gran Paradiso National Park. It is organised by Achaz von Hardenberg, who works in the Alpine Wildlife Research Centre of the Gran Paradiso park, jointly with Antonietta Mira from Università dell’Insubria. This course is essentially the beginning of the course I gave last summer in Brisbane or, more clearly, the first half of Bayesian Core. I will try to change the examples/datasets into more ecological illustrations and, hopefully, to cover the capture-recapture models, which should not be a problem for the intended audience. (This chapter of Bayesian Core is actually much more difficult to teach than I previously thought, maybe because of the model itself…) Note that the course is limited to 16 participants, so if you are interested, you should sign in asap by contacting the park at

Grandes Jorasses

The place itself is truly terrific! (The alternative title for the course could be “Bayes in Paradise”…) Just at the foot of Mont Blanc, it is located in the Valle d’Aosta region and is surrounded by mountains. I speJoachim climbingnt a family vacation there a few years ago and we did a lot of climbing and hiking in the park, including this climb of an equipped dam. To the point that my kids are now “saturated” with mountains and have quickly signed for a summer camp at the beach instead…! The good side of this is that we will have more leeway for doing real mountaineering, like going back to the top of Gran Paradiso or even maybe to Monte Bianco by the Italian route. There is also a walk during the course that is organised by the wardens of the park, which means we will see animals like bouquetins (alpine ibex) and chamois we usually do not see, although bouquetins are not particularly shy, as shown by this picture I took on a morning run during the last visit…

Bouquetin from Aosta