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Researchers in environment and ecology might sometimes not get the credit they deserve, especially when they research something rather local and very particular. One such researcher was Patrick Holt Leslie, who managed to develop a new method to calculate and describe the volumes of future populations of certain animals with higher precision. This invention allows environmental scientists to describe the future populations of animals considering not only their multiplication rate but also other factors, such as migration. Undoubtedly, Patrick Holt Leslie’s development is extremely useful to environmental science, helping more and more researchers to study various species and develop new ways for their preservation.
A Brief Biography
Born in 1900, Patrick Holt Leslie grew up near Edinburgh in Scotland. Getting his basic formal education in his hometown, he would eventually move to Oxford to get a bachelor’s degree in physiology in the Christ Church College there. He did not formally finish it due to health problems, however, he retained his interest in biology and up until 1935 worked as an assistant bacteriologist in the pathology department at Oxford University. After that, Leslie got interested in statistics and joined the newly established Bureau of Animal Population (Bacaër 117). Patrick Holt Leslie’s interest in biology and life form population can be observed since his early life, yet only after joining the Bureau in 1935, he managed to come very close to his life work.
While working at the Bureau of Animal Population, Leslie studied and experimented with rodents, mostly hares, and their predators, lynx, from Canada to study the patterns of their population growth and migration. Additionally, Leslie worked on the data on voles available from the Oxford archives. To complete his breakthrough study, he also relied heavily on the methods developed by Alfred Lotka that researched human demography. By combining these two pieces of data, Leslie managed to create a method of his own that could help study the animal populations and what affects them better (Bacaër 117). The Leslie matrix is still widely used in environmental science and biology to describe the growth of animal populations closed to migration and growing in an unlimited environment. In other words, the model allows calculating the total animal population under ideal conditions.
The Leslie Matrix: History of Publication and Main Idea
Leslie’s breakthrough work was first published in the scientific journal Biometrika in the article On the use of matrices in certain population mathematics in 1945. The article focused on the growth of the female population of rats of different age categories. Leslie took only fertile rat females into consideration. To consider the time factor, Leslie used geometric progression as well as the eigenvalue and eigenvector to compose the resulting matrix. The matrix itself allows evaluating the growth of the population of any animal given the number of fertile females, their age distribution, as well as the correcting values of eigenvalue and eigenvector (Bacaër 118; Burks, Lindqvist, and McMurran 76). While the matrix appears to be rather plain and simple, it made a breakthrough in populations study and is still popular in the 21st century. As such, it has been partially used to study the transient and asymptotic dynamics of the animal population of certain wildlife clusters (Mills 104). The conservation of wildlife is currently one of the greatest priorities in environmental science, thus, the work of Patrick Holt Leslie has enormous value today.
The Invaluable Contribution
Undoubtedly, Patrick Holt Leslie brought an enormous contribution to modern environmental science. His population matrix is not only efficient but has also become a classic method still used today. This allows modern researchers to study the wildlife population and develop ways to correct them, considering a variety of factors. Certain species of animals are often endangered due to human activity. This, however, can be mitigated should the animals be closed to migration and placed in the areas that work best for their population growth. All of this largely owes the Leslie matrix that has been developed within a duration of almost 10 years of the previous century. There’s no doubt Patrick Holt Leslie has been devoted to developing an effective population model that would enable the scientists of today to make all necessary calculations and preserve as many lifeforms on Earth as possible.
Bacaër, Nicolas. A Short History Of Mathematical Population Dynamics. Springer Verlag Limited, 2011, pp. 117-118.
Burks, Robert et al. "What's My Math Course Got To Do With Biology?". PRIMUS, vol 18, no. 1, 2008, pp. 71-84. Informa UK Limited, https://doi.org/10.1080/10511970701744976. Accessed 2 Mar 2022.
Mills, L. Scott. Conservation Of Wildlife Populations. John Wiley & Sons, 2012, pp. 103-104.
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