Agent-based in Auckland

Today is my first day back in the UK after my trip to the AAG and University of Auckland. The end of May is perilously close so if I’m to keep my New Year’s resolution of one blog per month I’d better crack on with this now (as this week my time will be taken by attending and preparing for a workshop on Agency in Complex Information Systems at Imperial College and the International Geographical Union meeting in Leeds).

The main aim of visiting Assoc. Profs. David O’Sullivan and George Perry was to continue on from where we left off with our recent work on agent-based modelling (including that published inGeoforum on narrative explanation and in the ABM of Geographical systems book chapter). The paper on narrative explanation was actually initiated in a previous trip I made to Auckland in 2005 – takes a while for these things to come to fruition (but in my defence I was busy with other things for several years and there were other outcomes from that trip). Hopefully, such a concrete outcome as a publication from our modelling and discussions won’t be so long in coming this time around! In particular, we’ll continue to examine the idea that, just as we fail to maximise the value of spatial models by not using spatial analysis of their output, we fail to maximise the value of agent-based models by not using agent-based analysis of their output. Identifying means of understanding how agent interactions and attributes influence path dependency in system dynamics seems and interesting place to start…

While in Auckland I also made good progress on the manuscript I’m writing with John Wainwright on the value of agent-based modelling for integrating geographical understanding (which I mentioned previously). I presented the main ideas from this manuscript in a seminar to members of the School of Environment and got some useful feedback. The slides from my presentation are below and I’m sure I’ll discuss that more here in future.

Another area I made progress on with George is the continuing use of the Mediterranean disturbance-succession modelling platform developed during my PhD. We think there are some interesting questions we can use an enhanced version of the original model to investigate, including examining the controls on Mediterranean vegetation competition and succession during the Holocene. One of the most sensitive aspects of the original model was the importance of soil moisture for succession dynamics and I’ve started on updating the model to use the soil-water balance model employed in the LandClim model. Enhancing the model in this way will also improve it’s applicability to explore fire-vegetation interactions with human activity and to explore questions regarding fire-vegetation-terrain interactions (i.e., ecogeomorphology).

So, lots to be going on with and hopefully I’ll be able to visit again in another few years time.

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