Catching up on 2012

This blog has been seriously neglected over the last six months, so there’s a lot of catching up to do here.

There’s lots of conferences and papers to list, but first I should highlight the slight difference in look of this blog and the entire website. I recently decided I was going to switch to Google sites to host and move this blog from WordPress to Blogger (for multiple reasons I won’t go into here). The website is lacking many of the pages from its previous guise and the NetLogo models have been moved to I’m continuing to add the old (and maybe some new) content to the website but that’s likely to be a slow process (particularly given how long it’s taken me to get to write this post!). The link structure of the blog pages has changed – I think I’ve managed to change most links but there may still be some that are broken (if you find any please let me know). Many of the images are also currently missing – I’ll get to re-inserting those sometime…

I’ve managed to get to quite a few conferences this year in the US, UK and Germany.A particular highlight was getting to see my old PhD advisor George Perry in the US. George was on sabbatical at Harvard Forest and he invited me to the forest to give a seminar. It was also great to attend the 4th USFS FVS conference in Fort Collins, CO and to be one of the only four or so international attendees. There’s a list below of all the conference presentations I gave with links to the conference websites.

I’ve also been working hard to get a few papers published. The paper I’ve been working on with George and David O’Sullivan on the narrative properties of generative simulation models (i.e., agent-based models and the like) has now been accepted and is in press at Geoforum. Two papers I have been working on related to my work in Michigan have also been accepted, subject to corrections, by Ecological Modelling. The papers are closely linked, with one describing the northern hardwood forest gap regeneration model we developed and the second showing how that model can be used in the integrated model to examine trade-offs and synergies in managing for both timber and deer in the forests. The current (provisional) citations for the three papers are below. When all are available online and in print I’ll post again here with the abstracts and links to the full text (and likely tweet the links before I blog!)

I’m still working on lots of other things, including a paper on the school choice modelling I have been doing, and another paper for a special issue in Ecology and Society on feedbacks in Coupled Human and Natural Systems. I’m also preparing some exciting (I hope) new classes for the students at King’s, including a field day at Heartwood Forest and a class on GPS and mapping. More details on that to come in the future too I’m sure!

Millington, J.D.A., O’Sullivan, D., Perry, G.L.W. (in press) Model histories: Narrative explanation in generative simulation modelling Geoforum
[Online] [Geoforum]

Millington, J.D.A., Walters, M.B., Matonis, M.S. and Liu, J. (accepted) Modelling for forest management synergies and trade-offs: Tree regeneration, timber and deer; research manuscript accepted, subject to corrections, by Ecological Modelling
[Ecological Modelling]

Millington, J.D.A., Walters, M.B., Matonis, M.S. and Liu, J. (accepted) Filling the gap: A compositional gap regeneration model for managed northern hardwood forests; research manuscript accepted, subject to corrections, by Ecological Modelling
[Ecological Modelling]

Millington, J.D.A., Walters, M.B., Matonis, M.S., Liu, J. Trade-offs in long-term forest ecosystem management: Timber, birds and deer Presented at: 19th ialeUK conference, Edinburgh, UK, September 2012

Millington, J.D.A. Using social psychology theory for modelling farmer decision-making Presented at: 6th International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software, Leipzig, Germany, July 2012
[iEMSs 2012]

Millington, J.D.A., O’Sullivan, D., Perry, G.L.W. Narrative explanation of agent decision-making Presented at: 6th International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software, Leipzig, Germany, July 2012
[iEMSs 2012]

Millington, J.D.A., Walters, M.B., Matonis, M.S., Liu, J. Investigating Combined Long-Term Effects of Variable Tree Regeneration and Timber Management on Forest Wildlife and Timber Production Using FVS Presented at: Fourth Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) Conference, Fort Collins, Colorado, April 2012
[FVS 2012]

Millington, J.D.A. Agricultural Landscape Change: Using social psychology theory in agent-based models of land-use change Presented at: US-IALE Symposium, Newport, Rhode Island, April 2012
[US-IALE 2012]

Millington, J.D.A., Walters, M.B., Matonis, M.S., Liu, J. Regeneration for Sustainability: Coordinating Long-term Forest Ecosystem Management for Timber Production and Wildlife Habitat Presented at: US-IALE Symposium, Newport, Rhode Island, April 2012
[US-IALE 2012]

Twitter is quicker (but thinner)

If you look at my blog posts over the last few months you might notice they’ve been becoming a less frequent. It can take time to write a post, and time has been hard to come by recently. I don’t expect time to be any more readily available in the near future, so from now on I’ll be posting my latest observations and thoughts on Twitter. Twitter, you see, is quicker. But it’s also thinner, and so from time-to-time I’ll be back here on my blog to get deeper into certain ideas and issues (or if I simply need more than 140 characters). If you don’t like Twitter and don’t want to follow me, my two latest tweets will always be at the top of this blog.

Now, I know a blog post about tweeting that complains about insufficient time to post blogs might seem absurd, but hopefully in the longer term the tweets and the blogs will prove an economic way to separate my more wheaty thoughts and observations from the chaffier ones…

Follow me on Twitter

Global Change Blog

This week I discovered a new blog that looks worth following for anyone interested in human-environment interactions, sustainability, or CHANS. The Global Change blog intends to explore big questions about society and environmental change, such as:

  • How do personal choices and values play a role in this conversation?
  • What do the natural sciences have to say about the way our world is changing?
  • What do the social sciences and humanities have to say about the ways that the social and the cultural intersect with questions surrounding environment?
  • How can we address environmental and social challenges at the same time?
  • How is environmentalism changing in response to these pressures?
  • What’s the role of higher education in facilitating sustainability and environmental literacy?

So far the blog has posted a mix of thoughtful original writing (for example on reasons why people don’t engage climate change) and brief highlights of other work. Hope they keep it coming!


I’ve just discovered Apture – it looks like a pretty cool tool for integrating media into websites and blogs like this one. I’ve just installed it and will be experimenting to see how well it works. When you see an icon like this or this , the link it accompanies should open some related content in an interactive Apture window (which you can reposition or enlarge as you please). Here’s an example:

The Guinness Premiership 2009 try of the season was scored at the Memorial Ground in Bristol by David Lemi.


Towards the end of last week the MSU Environmental Science and Public Policy Program held a networking event on Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS). These monthly events provide opportunities for networking around different environmental issues and last week was the turn of the area CSIS focuses on. The meeting reminded me of a couple of things I thought I would point out here.

First is the continued commitment that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is making to funding CHANS research. The third week in November will be the annual deadline for research proposals, so watch out for (particularly) tired looking professors around that time of year.

Second, I realized I haven’t highlighted on this blog one of the NSF CHANS projects currently underway at CSIS. CHANS-Net aims to develop an international network of research on CHANS to facilitate communication and collaboration among members of the CHANS research community. Central to the project is the establishment of an online meeting place for research collaboration. An early version of the website is currently in place but improvements are in the planning. I was asked for a few suggestions earlier this week and it made me realise how interested I am in the potential of the technologies that have arrived with web 2.0 (I suppose that interest is also clear right here in front of you on this blog). I hope to be able to continue to make suggestions and participate in the development of the site from afar (there’s too much to be doing elsewhere to get my hands really dirty on that project). Currently, only Principle Investigators (PIs) and Co-PIs on NSF funded CHANS projects are members of the network, but hopefully opportunities for wider participation will be available in the future. In that event, I’ll post again here.


During the second half of the course I’m teaching at MSU this semester (FW852 Systems Modeling and Simulation) I’ve invited several colleagues to give guest lectures on the modelling work they do. These lecture serve as examples to the students of modeling and simulation in practice, and provide the opportunity to tap the brains of experts in different fields.

One of the speakers I invited was one of my former PhD advisors, Dr. George Perry. George is at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Rather than pay for him to fly half way around the world we thought we would save some CO2 (and money!) by doing the lecture via internet video conference. As you can see from the photo below we had a video feed from George up on a large screen (you can also see the video feed he had of our room down in the lower right of his screen) with his presentation projected onto a separate screen (at right).

George spoke about research he has done modelling habitat dynamics and fish population persistence in intermittent lowland streams in SE Australia [I’ll link here to his forthcoming paper on this work soon]. The emphasis was on the ecology of the system and how modeling combined with fieldwork can aid understanding and restoration of systems like this.

Everything went pretty well with only a couple of Max Headroom-type stutters (the stutters were purely technical – George’s presentation and material was much more coherent than the 80’s icon!). With the increasing availability of (free) technologies like this (I often use Skype to make video calls with my folks back home, and Google just released their new Voice and Video Chat) no doubt this sort of communication is here to stay. And it looks unlikely that eLectures will stop here. As highlighted this week, academic conferences and lectures in virtual environments like Second Life are beginning to catch on too.

ABM of Mediterranean LUCC Paper Published in JASSS

Apparently blogging is just soooo 2004 and we should just leave it to the pros. The blog you’re reading may not be dead, but has been anaemic of late. Although this may not be the place to catch breaking news and cutting edge analysis in the 24-hour current affairs news cycle, it is a place where I can highlight some of my recent thoughts and activities. Maybe others will benefit from these notes, maybe they won’t. But in writing things down for public view it forces me to refine my thoughts so that I can express them concisely. Hopefully this blog has some life it yet and I will try to write soon about what has been taking up all my spare time recently – QuadTrees, seed dispersal and fire.

For now I will just let you know that the paper describing the agent-based model of Mediterranean agricultural Land-Use/Cover Change that I began developing as part of my PhD studies has now officially been published in the latest issue of JASSS.

Millington, J.D.A., Romero-Calcerrada, R., Wainwright, J. and Perry, G.L.W. (2008) An Agent-Based Model of Mediterranean Agricultural Land-Use/Cover Change for Examining Wildfire Risk. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 11(4)4

Shapefiles in Google Earth

Last week I put together a presentation about our Michigan UP Ecological-Economic Modeling project for our funding body. I thought it would be useful to demonstrate the location of our study area in Google Earth, so I set about learning how to import ESRI shapefiles into Google Earth. I discovered it’s really easy.

My first stop in working this out was ‘Free Geography Tools‘ and their series of posts about exporting shapefiles to Google Earth. From their list of free programs, first I tried Shp2KML by Jacob Reimers. Unfortunately this program resulted in some security conflicts with our network so I couldn’t use it. Next I tried a second program, also called shp2kml, from Zonum Solutions and that worked a treat. Zonum have several other Google Earth tools that I’ll have to try out sometime.

You can download the kml file it produced for the boundary of our study area here (right click, ‘save as’ or whatever). If you have Google Earth installed you can then just double click that file (once downloaded) and Google Earth will take you right there. When I first created the link above, I hoped that when you clicked on it the file would open automatically in Google Earth – it didn’t. But after a little playing I found that kmz files will open automatically in Google Earth. kmz files are simply zipped (compressed) kml files – I used WinRar to zip the kml file and then changed the file suffix from zip to kmz. Click here – the study area file will open automatically in Google Earth (from Firefox at least – see note below). Sweet.

I also exported shapefiles for DNR and private industrial stand boundaries which match up nicely with spatial patterns of vegetation observed in the landscape. Obviously, I can’t post these shapefiles online, but you can see evidence of land ownership boundaries in our study area right here. The light green rectangular area is non-DNR land and has been clear cut. The surrounding area is managed by the DNR (possibly selective timber harvest) – the resulting land cover from different management approaches is stark. These are the sorts of patterns and issues we will be able to examine using our ecological-economic landscape model.

[Note – When posting the presentation to our web server I also learned about MS Internet Explorer .png issues. They say they’ve fixed them, but there still seem to be some problems – try viewing this page in both IE and Firefox and note the difference (hover your cursor over the words at the bottom). Viewing the presentation pages in Firefox means the links to the .kmz files are active – they are not in IE. The issue arose becasue I used OpenOffice Impress to convert my MS PowerPoint file to html files.]

Columbia University Press Sale

Columbia University Press currently has a sale on. They have savings of up to 80% on more than 1,000 titles from several fields of study. I was particularly interested in their books in the Environmental Studies and Ecology section and purchased several:

Previously on this blog I reviewed another book they have on sale, Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future by Orrin H. Pilkey and Linda Pilkey-Jarvis.

When I get round to reading this new batch I’ll review some of these also (at first glance the Wiens et al. book looks particularly useful for any Landscape Ecologist – student, teacher or researcher). You’ve got up until May 31st to order yours.

Google Earth GeoData

Previously, I highlighted work my old colleague and friend Pete Webley has done using Google Earth to model volcanic ash plumes. Another former King’s College colleague (and teacher) has been also been working with Google Earth. Mark Mulligan has posted online a large collection of KML files for a wide variety of geodata including satellite data on cloud climatology, a database of global place names, urban climate data, tropical land use change data, and much more.

KML files are used in Google products, such as Google Earth or Google Maps, to display geographic data. The data Mark has posted on the King’s server are freely accessible to all for non-commercial use. you can visualise the data in Google Earth and, in many cases, links to the actual downloadable GIS files also provided. Many of the datasets are works in progress and new data will continue to be posted in the future, so keep checking back.

The availability of data such as these, and projects such as Pete’s, really show how Google Earth can be used for so much more than virtual tours of other places or previews of you next holiday destination… [Speaking of which, I’m off to Utah snowboarding next week so hopefully I’ll have some new pics to post on my own Google-enabled photos page.]