MPE 2013+ Workshop on Global Change

May 19 - 21, 2014
University of California, Berkeley

Holly Gaff, Old Dominion University, Virginia, hgaff at
Wayne Getz, UC Berkeley, wgetz at
Hans Kaper, Georgetown University, hgk5 at
Steve Sain, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), ssain at
Presented under the auspices of the DIMACS Special Program: Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013+.


Minda Berbeco, National Center for Science Education

Title: Addressing Educator Needs to Teach about Global Change

Global change is a wide, often all-encompassing concept that some consider to include everything from the origins of the Earth, while others include only the past 150 years of human impacts. How educators understand both what global change includes and the science around it are of the utmost importance to address their classroom needs. The Understanding Global Change web resource, a project being developed by the National Center for Science Education and the UC Museum of Paleontology, will be a one-stop-shop for educators interested in global change issues. To develop appropriate material though, we surveyed the educational community nationally to find out what they know, how they know it and how well it aligns with scientists understanding of global change. In this presentation we'll discuss what we found out and how this information is being used to develop our web resource.

Jason K. Blackburn, Spatial Epidemiology & Ecology Research Laboratory

Title: Applications of GIS in Emerging Zoonotic Processes

Many pathogens can be at least partially maintained in environmental reservoirs. An assessment of how environmental factors modulate the dynamics of environmentally maintained pathogens (EMPs) requires the integration of detailed field and laboratory observations into disease models. For most pathogens with environmental reservoirs, critical knowledge gaps exist that compromise our ability to effectively model and predict disease risk. With its persistent and infectious spores, the causative agent of anthrax, Bacillus anthracis provides an ideal model system for addressing fundamental questions regarding the role of environmental reservoirs in disease transmission. Here we will examine patterns of anthrax outbreaks across spatial and temporal scales relating patterns to processes. Spatial tools, such as GIS, spatial modeling, and high resolution phylogenetics can inform across spatiotemporal scales that can improve our understanding of disease ecology and inform surveillance and control efforts. Anthrax serves as a case study to compartmentalize pathogen persistence, host exposure and transmission across spatiotemporal scales, ranging from the local scale of interactions between a bacterium and a plant to host movement across extensive landscapes. This research takes a hierarchical and integrative approach to understanding the transmission and dynamics of B. anthracis, which is an essential step forward in the management and control of anthrax for grazing systems worldwide.

Carl Boettiger, UCSC

Title: Massive Data Set Management and Analysis in the Context of Global Change

The challenges of global change require synthesis of data and knowledge across different domains. Effectively integrating data and knowledge from physical, biological, and socio-economic environments is further challenged by the exponential growth of that data thanks both to automated and remote sensors and ongoing efforts on the ground to fill in the gaps. It is not sufficient to mine and synthesize only what we already know. Rather, the we must build the platforms today that allow us to integrate the data of tomorrow. I will discuss the challenges and potential solutions for data and information management and synthesis for data sets that are not only massive (volume), but highly heterogeneous (variety) and growing dynamically (velocity).

John Harte, University of California - Berkeley

Title: The Application of Information Theory to Ecology

Constrained maximization of information entropy predicts remarkably accurately the forms of the major metrics that ecologists use to describe observed patterns in the distribution, abundance, and energetics of individuals and species within relatively static ecosystems. Systems undergoing rapid change, however, whether as a result of rapid natural diversification or anthropogenic disturbance, exhibit systematic deviations from MaxEnt predictions, highlighting the need for a dynamic extension of the theory. Structure and validation of the static theory, and progress in the effort to extend the theory to systems undergoing rapid change, will be discussed.

Hans G. Kaper, Georgetown University, Dept of Mathematics and Statistics and Mathematics and Climate Research Network (MCRN)

Title: Mathematics and Climate: A New Partnership

Climate is an emerging area of research in the mathematical sciences, part of a broader portfolio that addresses issues of complexity and sustainability. So far, the climate system has received relatively little attention in the mathematical sciences community, despite the fact that the stakes are high, decision makers have more questions than we can answer, and mathematical models and statistical arguments play a central role in assessment exercises. In this talk I will identify some problems of current interest in climate science and indicate how, as mathematicians, we can find inspiration for new applications.

Justin Kitzes, University of California-Berkeley

Title: Predicting Future Extinction Debt from Present-Day Community Patterns

Global changes, such as habitat loss and climate-driven range contraction, are widely believed to be causing an increase in species extinction rates. A significant challenge in predicting these rates at both global and local scales is the possibility of extinction debt, time-delayed extinctions that occur gradually following an initial impact. Despite its importance for both basic ecology and conservation biology, there have been very few general explorations of how the likely magnitude of extinction debt might relate to different properties of ecological communities. Here I examine how measurable properties of community structure, spatial pattern, and size influence the level of expected extinction debt. Three types of communities, those following canonical lognormal, logseries, and zero-sum multinomial species abundance distributions, are examined along with species spatial patterns ranging from highly clumped to random.

The results indicate that extinction debts are generally the largest in communities that follow a canonical lognormal species abundance distribution and never appear in communities following a logseries distribution. Communities with a large total number of individuals, communities in which species exhibit low spatial aggregation (such as random, independent placement of individuals), and landscapes experiencing relatively low levels of habitat loss are also prone to large debts. Finally, the results identify the potential for a largely unexplored "extinction credit", in which the diversity of a landscape rises to a higher equilibrium following an initial extinction event, that is predicted when species are initially highly aggregated in space.

Adam Lampert, University of California-Davis

Title: Optimal Control of Restoration - the Role of Economic Threshold.

A variety of ecological systems around the world have been damaged in recent years, either by natural factors such as invasive species, storms and global change or by direct human activities such as overharvesting and pollution. Restoration of these systems to provide ecosystem services entails significant economic benefits. Thus, choosing how and when to restore in an optimal fashion is important, but has not been well studied. Here we examine a general model where population growth can be induced or accelerated by investing in active restoration. We show that the most cost-effective method to restore an ecosystem dictates investment until the population approaches an "economic restoration threshold", a density above which the ecosystem should be left to recover naturally. Therefore, determining this threshold is a key general approach for guiding efficient restoration management, and we demonstrate how to calculate this threshold for both deterministic and stochastic ecosystems.

Mark McCaffrey, National Center of Science Education

Title: Revolutionizing Science & Mathematics Education: the global change challenge

Even as the science research community conveys the causes, effects, risks and potential responses to climate and global change, these and related science and related mathematics are often not taught or taught well in the United States and elsewhere. The reasons why these vital topics have not been well covered in traditional education practices are complex and include a pervasive climate of controversy and manufactured doubt in many communities, the broad cross-disciplinary and technical nature of the science, uneven educational opportunities for the 76 million students in the United States, and the traditional siloed approach to teaching mathematics, science, social studies and other disciplines. An array of new resources and strategies in recent years hold robust potential to transform how, where, and when global change topics are conveyed in formal and informal education environments. These include the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and Language Arts, the Next Generation Science Standards and NRC Framework for K12 Education, the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN), the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, the move toward mobile-learning that the National Climate Assessment aims to take full advantage of, and the forthcoming Understanding Global Change website, which the University of California at Berkeley and the National Center for Science Education are currently developing. Early adopting schools and educators are transforming global change-related education, transforming schools into living laboratories that prepare young people for the challenges and opportunities for global changes that are already well underway at a local level. You can link to this website:

Carrie Manore, Tulane University

Title: Towards a National Early Warning System for Human West Nile Virus Incidence

We have identified environmental and demographic variables, available in January, that predict the magnitude and spatial distribution of West Nile virus (WNV) for the following summer. The yearly magnitude and spatial distribution for WNV incidence in humans in the United States (US) have varied wildly in the past decade. Mosquito control measures are expensive and having better estimates of the expected size of a future WNV outbreak can help in planning for the mitigation efforts and costs. West Nile virus is spread primarily between mosquitoes and birds; humans are an incidental host. Previous efforts have demonstrated a strong correlation between environmental factors and the incidence of WNV. A predictive model for human cases must include both the environmental factors for the mosquito-bird epidemic and an anthropological model for the risk of humans being bitten by a mosquito. Using weather data and demographic data available in January for every county in the US, we use logistic regression analysis to predict the probability that the county will have at least one WNV case the following summer. We validate our approach and the spatial and temporal WNV incidence in the US from 2005 to 2013. The methodology can be applied to forecast the 2014 WNV incidence in late January 2014. We find the most significant predictors for a county to have a case of WNV to be the mean minimum temperature in January, the deviation of this minimum temperature from the expected minimum temperature, the total population of the county, publicly available samples of local bird populations, and if the county had a case of WNV the previous year.

Co-authors: Justin Davis (Tulane), Rebecca Chistofferson (LSU), Dawn Wesson (Tulane), James Hyman (Tulane), Christopher Mores (LSU)

Neo Martinez, University of Arizona, Tucson

Title: Understanding Socio-Ecosystems as Complex Networks in Changing Environments

Network science is one of the newest, most active, and most powerful ways to understand and predict the structure and behavior of complex systems. Combined with advances in mathematics and computation, network science has much to contribute to understanding how ecological and socio-ecological systems interact with global change. Ecology has had a long and fruitful history of exploring ecological networks that has greatly expanded along with these more recent advances. Based both on this history and these more recent activities, I will discuss methods, results, and applications of ecological network modeling with an emphasis on mathematical and computational analyses of large complex trophic networks otherwise known as food webs. This will include the modeling effects of global change such as species loss, species invasion, and economic exploitation on ecosystem services and stability. Both subsistence and market based interactions between societies and ecosystems will be emphasized. The discussion will conclude by describing research frontiers including the structure and dynamics of coupled human-natural networks and a large international collaboration called the Moorea Avatar project.

Viral Sagar, Rutgers University, and Unnati Rao, Carnegie Mellon University

Title: Wastes to Fuel - Waste a Valuable Resource

A major problem faced today is the shortage of fuel. The earth's total endowment of oil, before humans started using it, was roughly 2 trillion barrels of recoverable oil. Consumption has been rapidly increasing and about half is used up. Consumption is currently 31 billion barrels each year. At this rate, all the oil would be used up in 32 years presuming the rate of consumption remains the same. This is a serious issue as without fuel, nothing would work.

AA big disadvantage of modernization is waste disposal. Waste is classified as any form of unwanted material. Since it is a by-product of any human activity, accumulation of waste is unavoidable. Moreover, with increase in the global population and the rising demand for food, the waste produced by each household is rising exponentially. Improper waste disposal leads to problems such as habitat destruction, climate change, outbreak of diseases and deterioration of air quality. Hence it is necessary to ensure proper waste disposal.

AThe different wastes include electronic waste, plastic waste, rubber tyres, petroleum sludge and organic waste. The conventional methods of waste treatment are incineration, gasification and torrefaction. This paper has discussed about the polycrack method the method for obtaining fuel from various wastes. The method involves the processes of vaporization, cracking, recombination and condensation.

AThis method not only provides an efficient method of waste disposal, but also generates fuel, thus solving to an extent the global energy crisis. Also, the fuel obtained from the polycrack process has higher calorific value as compared to regular fuel.

Andrea Saltelli, Joint Research Centre's Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen at the European Commission

Title: When All Models are Wrong

More stringent quality criteria are needed for models used at the science/policy interface. These criteria are made urgent by the increasing confrontational style of public debates on matters of science. We offer a checklist to aid in the responsible development and use of models, and provide seven rules to extend the use of sensitivity analysis (which works to apportion uncertainty in model-based inference among input factors) in a process of sensitivity auditing of models used in a policy context. Each rule will be illustrated by examples from across several disciplines.

Background material to which participants can look are: When All Models are Wrong, in case one wants to read more on the topic.

Ivan Sudakov, University of Utah

Title: Sea-ice Albedo Feedback and the Tipping Points in Algae Dynamics

The resulting increase in solar absorption in the ice and upper ocean accelerates melting, possibly triggering ice-albedo feedback. Similarly, an increase in open water fraction lowers albedo, thus increasing solar absorption and subsequent melting. The spatial coverage and distribution of melt ponds on the surface of ice floes and the open water between the floes thus exerts primary control of ice pack albedo and the partitioning of solar energy in the ice-ocean system. Biological productivity in the ice covered upper ocean is dependent upon light penetrating through the sea ice pack. Recently, a massive phytoplankton bloom was observed underneath melting Arctic sea ice (Arrigo et al., 2012).

We investigate the model for algae blooms dynamics which incorporates sea-ice albedo feedback. The model is based on the well-known Daisyworld model, was introduced by James Lovelock and Andrew Watson in a paper published in 1983. Analogy, we have two populations of algae: one of them is floating on the ocean surface, other incorporated to the melting sea ice. The parameterization of this model contains the Stefan-Boltzmann law for the solar radiation as well as the growing rate of ice algae. We expect to describe how changing in sea ice albedo feedback can influence on algae blooms.

Jennifer Weaver, University of California-Berkeley, Marie-Josee Fortin and Tenley Conway, University of Toronto

Title: Both Climate Change and Land Use Change Influenceinvasive Species' Future Ranges

Climate change is often recognized for its major influence on future species distributions, with fewer studies examining the role of land use change. We examined the role of land use change (specifically urbanization) in determining species' future distributions, specifically focusing on invasive species. We predicted invasive species' distributions in 2050 by utilizing ensemble modelling of different scenarios of climate change and land use change and comparing the magnitude of their effects on species range size (determined by habitat suitability). We determined that over a species' entire range, land use change is a relatively localized function while climate change has a more broad-scale generalized effect on habitat suitability. However, especially in suburban areas, land use change such as urbanization can have a much higher impact than climate change on habitat suitability. This will have significant implications for local management strategies and conservation efforts.

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Document last modified on May 15, 2014.