Dr Ben Courtney Stevenson

PhD, University of St Andrews

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Senior Lecturer


I completed BSc (Hons) and MSc degrees at the University of Auckland before moving to the University of St Andrews, United Kingdom, where I graduated with a PhD in 2016. I remained at St Andrews for a twelve-month research fellowship, joining this department in January 2017. 

Please see my personal webpage for further information.


Research | Current

I develop statistical methods and software to estimate ecological parameters of interest, usually animal abundance or density. My recent work has met statistical challenges that arise when instruments like microphones, video-cameras, and drones are deployed to detect animals on wildlife surveys. New technologies have the potential to collect mountains of data at a low cost, but complicate estimation of ecological parameters because less information is encoded within each detection. For example, we can easily identify an individual on a live-trapping survey via a securely fixed ID tag, but perhaps cannot do so from a fleeting glimpse in a video.

I have additional research interests in spatial point processes, statistical computing, and applied statistics in general. My work in these areas sometimes overlaps with ecology, but has also led to publications in the fields of medicine and veterinary science.

Research outputs at the end of this profile are no longer automatically updated. For a full list, please see my personal webpage or my Google Scholar profile. Here are a few recent publications:

  • Stevenson, B. C., Fewster, R. M., and Sharma, K. (in press) Spatial correlation structures for detections of individuals in spatial capture-recapture models. Biometrics.
  • Borchers, D. L., Nightingale, P., Stevenson, B. C., and Fewster, R. M. (in press) A latent capture history model for digital aerial surveys. Biometrics. (link)
  • Baron, H. R., Stevenson, B. C., and Phalen, D. N. (in press) Comparison of in-clinic diagnostic testing methods for Macrorhabdus ornithogasterJournal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 35(1), 37–44. (link)
  • Stevenson, B. C., van Dam-Bates, P., Young, C. K. Y., and Measey, J. (2021) A spatial capture-recapture model to estimate call rate and population density from passive acoustic surveys. Methods in Ecology and Evolution12(3), 432–442. (link)
  • Samaniego, A., Griffiths, R., Gronwald, M., Holmes, N. D., Oppel, S., Stevenson, B. C., and Russell, J. C. (2020) Risks posed by rat reproduction and diet to eradications on tropical islands. Biological Invasions22(4), 1365–1378. (link)
  • Baron, H. R., Stevenson, B. C., and Phalen, D. N. (2020) Inconsistent efficacy of water soluble Amphotericin B for the treatment of Macrorhabdus ornithogaster in a budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) aviary. Australian Veterinary Journal98(7), 333–337. (link)

Teaching | Current

STATS 330, Summer School, 2022
STATS 399, Semester 2, 2022

Postgraduate supervision

To see a list of available projects, click here. Some of these may not yet appear on the department's list.

Current students:


Rishika Chopara
Goodness-of-fit for spatial capture-recapture models
Cosupervisor: Rachel Fewster

Edy Setyawan
Investigating the movement ecology, feeding behaviour, and genetic structure of a meta-population of reef manta rays Mobula alfredi in Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Cosupervisors: Rochelle Constantine and Mark Erdmann

Pei (Zoe) Luo
Two-phase subsampling designs for DNA sequencing, with an application to the relatedness in endangered species
Cosupervisor: Thomas Lumley

David Chan
Advancing spatial capture-recapture methods for acoustic surveys of cetacean populations
Cosupervisor: Rachel Fewster

Markus Gronwald
Behaviour of invasive rat species in low population densities on islands
Cosupervisor: James Russell

BSc (Hons)

Jinxi (Simone) Zhang
Fast, accurate approximations for spatial capture-recapture likelihoods
Faculty of Science Sustainability Research Award Winner
Cosupervisor: Jing Liu


External research funding:

  • PI, Marsden Fast-Start Grant, Estimating animal population size in an unobservable spatial obstacle course, 2020-2023
  • AI, Marsden Grant, Cells and whistles: genetic and acoustic methods of wildlife monitoring, 2018-2021


  • Second place in the banana cake category, University of Auckland Baking Competition, 2019*
  • New Zealand Statistical Association Worsley Early-Career Award, 2017
  • ESPRC (UK) Doctoral Fellowship Prize, 2015

(*Out of two entries)

Areas of expertise

Ecological statistics, capture-recapture, statistical computing, spatial point processes.

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Department of Statistics Stage III Coordinator
  • Department of Statistics Undergraduate Staff-Student Consultative Committee Coordinator
  • Department of Statistics Summer Research Scholarships Coordinator
  • Department of Statistics Research Committee Member

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Samaniego, A., Griffiths, R., Gronwald, M., Holmes, N. D., Oppel, S., Stevenson, B. C., & Russell, J. C. (2020). Risks posed by rat reproduction and diet to eradications on tropical islands. BIOLOGICAL INVASIONS, 22 (4), 1365-1378. 10.1007/s10530-019-02188-2
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/50621
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: James Russell
  • Jones-Todd, C. M., Caie, P., Illian, J. B., Stevenson, B. C., Savage, A., Harrison, D. J., & Bown, J. L. (2019). Identifying prognostic structural features in tissue sections of colon cancer patients using point pattern analysis. Statistics in medicine, 38 (8), 1421-1441. 10.1002/sim.8046
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Charlotte Jones-Todd
  • Stevenson, B. C., Borchers, D. L., & Fewster, R. M. (2019). Cluster capture-recapture to account for identification uncertainty on aerial surveys of animal populations. Biometrics, 75 (1), 326-336. 10.1111/biom.12983
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rachel Fewster
  • Baron, H. R., Leung, K. C. L., Stevenson, B. C., Sabater Gonzalez, M., & Phalen, D. N. (2018). Evidence of amphotericin B resistance in Macrorhabdus ornithogaster in Australian cage-birds. Medical Mycology, 57 (4), 421-428. 10.1093/mmy/myy062
  • Measey, G. J., Stevenson, B. C., Scott, T., Altwegg, R., & Borchers, D. L. (2017). Counting chirps: Acoustic monitoring of cryptic frogs. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54 (3), 894-902. 10.1111/1365-2664.12810
  • Kidney, D., Rawson, B. M., Borchers, D. L., Stevenson, B. C., Marques, T. A., & Thomas, L. (2016). An efficient acoustic density estimation method with human detectors applied to gibbons in Cambodia. PLoS ONE, 11 (5)10.1371/journal.pone.0155066
  • Fewster, R. M., Stevenson, B. C., & Borchers, D. L. (2016). Trace-contrast models for capture–recapture without capture histories. Statistical Science, 31 (2), 245-258. 10.1214/16-STS551
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rachel Fewster
  • Borchers, D. L., Stevenson, B. C., Kidney, D., Thomas, L., & Marques, T. A. (2015). A Unifying Model for Capture–Recapture and Distance Sampling Surveys of Wildlife Populations. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 110 (509), 195-204. 10.1080/01621459.2014.893884

Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 303 - Bldg 303
Level 3, Room 326
New Zealand

Web links