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Veronica Berrocal

Statistics Associate Professor Veronica Berrocal was recently elected to a three-year term as chair of the Section in Environmental Sciences (EnviBayes) of the International Society of Bayesian Analysis (ISBA). EnviBayes promotes research and education in Bayesian methods in environmental sciences, organizing conferences and workshops and developing short courses for students and practitioners. It also encourages academics to work with environmental and public health organizations.

Berrocal, who joined the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) in September after nine years at the University of Michigan, was pleased to learn she had been elected as chair. “Knowing that my fellow Bayesian, environmental statisticians trust me to lead the section made me feel humbled and very happy,” she says.

Berrocal is, in fact, more than qualified. She served as a postdoc research associate at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has served as an ad-hoc member in several scientific advisory panels for the EPA, and has held various officer positions in the Section on Statistics and the Environment (ENVR) of the American Statistical Association (ASA).

“I have always been interested in environmental sciences,” says Berrocal, recalling how her goal in graduate school was to “marry my interest in statistics with my love for anything related to the environment.” Her dissertation focused on probabilistic weather forecasting using the output of a numerical weather prediction model, while her postdoc research dealt with statistical post-processing of outputs of deterministic computer models for air quality. “Through my postdoc then, and my participation in EPA scientific advisory panels now,” she says, “I am increasingly appreciative not only of the importance of the work that researchers at EPA carry out, but also of the role that statistics could play in helping EPA address many of the issues the agency is trying to tackle: from environmental exposure assessment to characterization of environmental risk.”

During her term leading EnviBayes, Berrocal hopes to grow the section and increase its visibility. Her plan is to establish quarterly webinars where researchers in environmental disciplines can highlight questions and issues where the involvement of Bayesian environmental statisticians is strongly needed.

“Ultimately, I’d like for environmental statisticians, Bayesians and non, to have a stronger presence and play a greater role not only in pushing environmental sciences research forward but also in informing environmental policies in protection of the environment, the Earth and human health,” says Berrocal.

Shani Murray