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.
Dr. William G. Kennedy, “Bill,” is continuing to learn in a third career, this time as an academic, a computational social scientist.
His first a career was in military service as a Naval Officer, starting with the Naval Academy, Naval PostGraduate School (as the first computer science student from the Naval Academy), and serving during the Cold War as part of the successful submarine-based nuclear deterrent. After six years of active duty service, he served over two decades in the Naval Reserves commanding three submarine and submarine-related reserve units and retiring after 30 years as a Navy Captain with several personal honors and awards.
His second career was in civilian public service: 10 years at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and 15 years with the Department of Energy. At the NRC he rose to be an advisor to the Executive Director for Operations and the authority on issues concerning the reliance on human operators for reactor safety, participating in two fly-away accident response teams. He left the NRC for a promotion and to lead, as technical director, the entrepreneurial effort to explore the use of light-water and accelerator technologies for the production of nuclear weapons materials. That work led to him becoming the senior policy officer responsible for strategic planning and Departmental performance commitments, leading development of the first several DOE strategic plans and formal performance agreements between the Secretary of Energy and the President.
Upon completion of doctoral research in Artificial Intelligence outside of his DOE work, he began his third career as a scientist. That started with a fully funded, three-year post-doctoral research position in cognitive robotics at the Naval Research Laboratory sponsored by the National Academy of Science and expanding his AI background with research in experimental Cognitive Science. Upon completion, he joined the Center for Social Complexity, part of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University in 2008 where he is now the Senior Scientific Advisor. His research interests range from cognition at the individual level to models of millions of agents representing individual people. He is currently leading a multi-year project to characterize the reaction of the population of a mega-city to a nuclear WMD (weapon of mass destruction) event.
Dr. Kennedy holds a B.S. in mathematics from the U.S. Naval Academy, and Master of Science in Computer Science from the Naval PostGraduate School, and a Ph.D. in Information Technology from George Mason University and has a current security clearance. Dr. Kennedy is a member of Sigma Xi, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and a life member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He is a STEM volunteer with the Senior Scientists and Engineers/AAAS Volunteer Program for K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the DC-area schools.
Cognitive Science, Computational Social Science, Social Cognition, Autonomy, Cognitive Robotics
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).