Joanna Mills Flemming, associate professor

A day in the life

Joanna Mills Flemming, associate professor


Data drives science, especially now with the internet. If you work in areas where there is data, you are constantly trying to learn the application.

The discipline that underpins all the sciences

Discovering how statistics can be applied to nearly everything is one of the best things about Joanna Mills Flemming’s job.

“The discipline underpins all sciences,” she says. For budding statisticians, that’s great news.

“You basically get to choose the area that you want to work in, because there’s so much work to be done. In fact, I think data drives science, particularly now with the internet,” she says.

Dr. Flemming teaches students how to use and write computer programs to work out complex statistical problems. In her experience, these skills lend themselves to all sorts of interesting collaborations.

She is a co-principal collaborator with the Dalhousie-based Ocean Tracking Network. Some of the Network’s recent research has been trying to figure out if seals are in fact responsible for the decimation of certain cod stocks off the coast of Nova Scotia. They're looking for a solution before a proposed mass cull of seals takes place.

“This has been tremendously rewarding because analysis and visualization tools are needed in order to really make sense of available data and that which is to come,” she says. 
There’s a longstanding history of the statistics and biology programs at Dalhousie working together. Dr. Flemming collaborates as an environmental statistician with world class marine biologists like Boris Worm and teaches many quantitative biology students both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

“Employers, regardless of their area of expertise, but particularly in biology, want students who have quantitative skills.”

With an undergraduate statistics degree, you have the potential to work in any number of fields, she says, but it’s not just about work. It helps you manage all the risks and uncertainty that comes with living a full life.

“These are the skills that really help you over a lifetime, not just when you finish a degree,” she says. “The more statistics courses you take, the better equipped you are to make everyday decisions. Even to read the newspaper, it’s not as routine as you might think!”