BGC Member Spotlight: Lukas Gabor

November 10, 2021

Background: At the beginning of my scientific career, I was interested in geographic information systems (GIS) and their use in studying pedestrian behavior in cities. However, due to my passion for environmental sciences, I became more and more interested in the use of GIS in this field. Therefore, I decided to get my PhD in applied and landscape ecology at the Czech University of Life Sciences. Since the beginning of my PhD studies, I have been exploring the sensitivity of species distribution models (SDMs) to various spatial scales and spatial data quality. Besides this, I am also interested in using remote sensing data from various sources in ecology. Before joining Yale University, I was part of research teams at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Germany), University of Florida, and North Carolina State University (both USA).

I am a coffee lover, addicted to challenges of all kinds. My hobbies are working out and traveling. I love discovering new cities and places around the world. Although I love taking trips with friends, solo traveling brings me the greatest sense of adventure and I find it especially thrilling to venture into new places all by myself.

Research: A proper understanding of the relationships between species and their environment represents a fundamental prerequisite for effective conservation actions. SDMs have become a powerful tool for helping scientists understand such relationships. With the increasing availability of both species and fine-scale environmental data in the last two decades, the implementation of SDMs has dramatically increased. However, despite this boom, the question of how such models are sensitive to spatial data quality differences has been poorly investigated. Thus, we still have limited knowledge of how SDMs based on poor quality data may interact with species characteristics, nor how this may vary at different spatial scales. Therefore, I have decided to address these issues in my research as I believe that such research can potentially allow ecologists to create more accurate species distribution models across scales, from local to global. As a result, such models can help improve studies exploring the influence of climate change on global biodiversity and stop biodiversity decline.

At the BGC Center: My recent research focused mainly on the effects of positional uncertainty in species occurrences on SDMs performance and ecological interpretability. As a Fulbright scholar at Yale’s BGC Center, I would like to continue in this research. Specifically, I would like to investigate the influence of positional error on the estimation of environmental variables’ importance and the shape of the species response to environmental variables. Besides, I am genuinely interested in how much positional uncertainty is in publicly shared data. I believe that answers to questions like, how is this uncertainty distributed across the world, what is its main source, and how is it related to, for example, socio-economic or geographical factors, can improve future data gathering.