The goal of my research program is to improve our understanding about highly integrated natural and human processes. Within the context of Land-System Science, I seek to understand how natural and human systems interact through feedback mechanisms and affect land management choices among humans and ecosystem (e.g., carbon storage) and biophysical processes (e.g., erosion) in natural systems. One component of this program involves finding novel methods for data collection (e.g., unmanned aerial vehicles) that can be used to calibrate and validate models of natural systems at the resolution of decision makers. Another component of this program involves the design and construction of agent-based models to formalize our understanding of human decisions and their interaction with their environment in computer code. The most exciting, and remaining part, is coupling these two components together so that we may not only quantify the impact of representing their coupling, but more importantly to assess the impacts of changing climate, technology, and policy on human well-being, patterns of land use and land management, and ecological and biophysical aspects of our environment.
To achieve this overarching goal, my students and I conduct fieldwork that involves the use of state-of-the-art unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in combination with ground-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) equipment, RTK global positioning system (GPS) receivers, weather and soil sensors, and a host of different types of manual measurements. We bring these data together to make methodological advancements and benchmark novel equipment to justify its use in the calibration and validation of models of natural and human processes. By conducting fieldwork at high spatial resolutions (e.g., parcel level) we are able to couple our representation of natural system processes at the scale at which human actors make decisions and improve our understanding about how they react to changes and affect our environment.
land use; land management; agricultural systems; ecosystem function; carbon; remote sensing; field measurements; unmanned aerial vehicle; human decision-making; erosion, hydrological, and agent-based modelling
My research uses modeling to understand complex coupled human and natural systems, and can be generally described as computational social science. I am especially interested in modeling water management systems, in both archaeological and contemporary contexts. I have previously developed a framework for modeling general archaeological complex systems, and applied this to the specific case of the Hohokam in southern Arizona. I am currently engaged in research in data mining to understand contemporary water management strategies in the U.S. southwest and in several locations in Alaska. I am also a developer for the Repast HPC toolkit, an agent-based modeling toolkit specifically for high-performance computing platforms, and maintain an interest in the philosophy of science underlying our use of models as a means to approach complex systems. I am currently serving as Communications Officer for the Computational Social Science Society of the Americas.
Dr. Kimberly G. Rogers studies the coupled human-natural processes shaping coastal environments. She obtained a B.Sc. in Geological Sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and began her graduate studies on Long Island at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Rogers completed her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University, where she specialized in nearshore and coastal sediment transport. She was a postdoctoral scholar and research associate at the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado Boulder. In 2014, her foundation in the physical sciences was augmented by training in Environmental Anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington through an NSF Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) Fellowship.
Rogers’s research is broadly interdisciplinary and examines evolving sediment dynamics at the land-sea boundary, principally within the rapidly developing river deltas of South Asia. As deltas are some of the most densely populated coastal regions on earth, she incorporates social science methods to examine how institutions — particularly those governing land use and built infrastructure — influence the flow of water and sediment in coastal areas. She integrates quantitative and qualitative approaches in her work, such as direct measurement and geochemical fingerprinting of sediment transport phenomena, agent-based modeling, institutional and geospatial analyses, and ethnographic survey techniques. Risk holder collaboration is an integral part of her research philosophy and she is committed to co-production and capacity building in her projects. Her work has gained recognition from policy influencers such as the World Bank, USAID, and the US Embassy Bangladesh and has been featured in popular media outlets such as Slate and Environmental Health Perspectives.
My broad research interests are in human-environmental interactions and land-use change. Specifically, I am interested in how people make land-use decisions, how those decisions modify the functioning of natural systems, and how those modifications feedback on human well-being, livelihoods, and subsequent land-use decisions. All of my research begins with a complex systems background with the aim of understanding the dynamics of human-environment interactions and their consequences for environmental and economic sustainability. Agent-based modeling is my primary tool of choice to understand human-environment interactions, but I also frequently use other land change modeling approaches (e.g., cellular automata, system dynamics, econometrics), spatial statistics, and GIS. I also have expertise in synthesis methods (e.g., meta-analysis) for bringing together leveraging disparate forms of social and environmental data to understand how specific cases (i.e., local) of land-use change contribute to and/or differ from broader-scale (i.e. regional or global) patterns of human-environment interactions and land change outcomes.
Natural and Social Science Interface (NSSI)
Dr. Lilian Alessa, University of Idaho President’s Professor of Resilient Landscapes in the Landscape Architecture program, is also Co-Director of the University of Idaho Center for Resilient Communities. She conducts extensive research on human adaptation to environmental change through resilient design at landscape scales. Much of her work is funded by the National Science Foundation, including projects awarded the Arctic Observing Network, Intersections of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) and the Dynamics of Coupled Natural Human Systems programs. Canadian-born and raised, Alessa received her degrees from the University of British Columbia. She also uses her expertise in social-ecological and technological systems science to develop ways to improve domestic resource security for community well-being, particularly through the incorporation of place-based knowledge. Her work through the Department of Homeland Security’s Center of Excellence, the Arctic Domain Awareness Center, involves developing social-technological methods to monitor and respond to critical environmental changes. Lil is a member of the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education and is on the Science, Technology and Education Advisory Committee for the National Ecological Observing Network (NEON). Professor Alessa also teaches a university landscape architecture capstone course: Resilient Landscapes with Professor Andrew Kliskey. Professor Alessa’s collaborative grant activity with Professor Andrew Kliskey, since coming to the university in 2013, exceeds 7 million USD to date. She has authored over a 100 publications and reports and has led the development of 2 federal climate resilience toolbox assessments, the Arctic Water Resources Vulnerability Index (AWRVI) and the Arctic Adaptation Exchange Portal (AAEP).
Gary Polhill did a degree in Artificial Intelligence and a PhD in Neural Networks before spending 18 months in industry as a professional programmer. Since 1997 he has been working at the Institute on agent-based modelling of human-natural systems, and has worked on various international and interdisciplinary projects using agent-based modelling to study agricultural systems, lifestyles, and transitions to more sustainable ways of living. In 2016, he was elected President of the European Social Simulation Association, and was The James Hutton Institute’s 2017 Science Challenge Leader on Developing Technical and Social Innovations that Support Sustainable and Resilient Communities.
B.S. in Fish and Wildlife from Michigan State University in 1996. M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Maine - Orono in 2001. Employed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources since 2003, first as a field biologist (2003-2008), then statewide endangered species coordinator (2008-2012), and currently as the statewide (climate) adaptation program lead (2012-present). Also currently a graduate student in the Boone and Crockett Quantitative Wildlife Center at Michigan State University (2015-present). Father, gardener, hiker, and amateur myxomycologist.
Human-wildlife social-ecological systems, resilience and learning in complex adaptive systems, climate change, disturbance ecology, and historical ecology
Sae Schatz, Ph.D., is an applied human–systems researcher, professional facilitator, and cognitive scientist. Her work focuses on human–systems integration (HSI), with an emphasis on human cognition and learning, instructional technologies, adaptive systems, human performance assessment, and modeling and simulation (M&S). Frequently, her work seeks to enhance individual’s higher-order cognitive skills (i.e., the mental, emotional, and relational skills associated with “cognitive readiness”).