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CSSA  January 2010

CSSA January 2010

Subject:

Ecoinformatics/Environmental Modelling Course

From:

Gary Johnson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Computer Science Student Association <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:50:32 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Beloved hackers,

  So I know at least a few folks have expressed interest in the
  environmental modelling work that I do in my NSF research, and it just
  so happens that my research team is offering a course this semester
  (yes, right now!) in which we are explaining, for the first time, just
  how we are approaching the open problem of ecosystem service
  assessment (in which the goal is to estimate the economic/utility
  value of nature to people in different regions of the world).

  Right now, the UVM Ecoinformatics Collaboratory (that's my group) is
  considered one of the top players in this arena (along with Stanford,
  who BTW couldn't program a bubble sort right if you gave them the
  pseudo-code) by many NGO, business, and government groups in the US
  and in Europe.  We've had multiple workshops with members of the
  extractive industries (Exxon/Mobil, Shell, Chevron, DuPont, etc), the
  US government departments which are conducting research in this area
  (EPA, USGS, DOI, USDA-OEM), numerous NGOs, and even quite a few folks
  from the EU.

  Anyway, the deal is, we've offered this course as NR285 and PBIO295
  (Modeling for Environmental Planning).  It used to have a cooler name
  (Probabilistic Modeling for Spatial Ecosystem Service Assessment) but
  apparently the Registrar's office decided to get sloppy on us.  Right
  now (after the first class), we have 8 students (7 grad/1 undergrad)
  who all come either from the Natural Resources or Plant Biology
  departments.  But what I would really like is to see some CS folks in
  the room, so we can take the programming and modeling work to a whole
  new level.

  I've asked Xindong to cross-list it as CS295 (since we'll be covering
  Bayesian network modeling, knowledge bases with ontologies, and
  agent-based simulations), but he seems to think that everyone in the
  CS department could care less about anything related to the
  environment.

  --------------------------------------------------------------
  To quote:  

  "According to my prior experience of cross listing other courses,
  courses with "environmental planning" and "ecosystems" will not
  attract many (if any) CS enrollments. Therefore, unless you have some
  CS students in mind who have indicated to sign up for this course, I
  am not willing to put my time and efforts on either of these course
  listings."

  -Xindong Wu  [Jan 22, 2010]
  --------------------------------------------------------------

  Ah, the nurturing love and support of our dear department chair.

  So, what I put to you folks is a call out for interest to test (and
  perhaps confirm) Xindong's claim.  If he's right and none of you could
  even care less, then I'll just have to console myself with the fact
  that sometimes stereotypes are absolutely right.  OTOH, perhaps there
  are 1 or 2 of you out there who would like to do some highly-parallel
  spatial probabilistic programming over large (multi-terabyte) GIS
  datasets.  It could even potentially be a jumping off point for a
  URECA project or a Master's thesis/project for any Honors College
  students.

  That being said, here's the course information if you want to sign up.

  There is a 3 credit class that is meeting once per week this semester.
  In this folks will be studying:

  -Ecosystem Service Theory

  -Geographic Information Systems (digital map systems, think Google++)

  -Modeling Theory (parametric/non-parametric,
                    statistical/deterministic,
                    static/dynamic,
                    spatial/non-spatial)

  -Ontologies and Semantic Systems

  -Bayesian Networks and Machine Learning

  -Agent-based Modeling of Ecosystem Service Flows

  -Economic Valuation of Ecosystem Services

  -Decision Support Systems

  Here's the info:
  ---------------------------------------------------------
  Course Title:  Modeling for environmental planning
  Course number: PBIO 295, NR285, (ideally CS295 if folks express interest)
  Number of Credits: 3
  Max enrollment: 12
  Prerequisites: course in Ecological Economics (desirable), course in statistics or ecological modeling (required)
  Meeting time(s): W 3:00 - 5:45 pm
  Class location: Gund Conference Room 
  Instructors: Kenneth Bagstad, Gary Johnson, Brian Voigt,
               Marta Ceroni, Ferdinando Villa
  ---------------------------------------------------------


  Additionally, there's a 1 credit intensive course (hands-on work with
  representatives from government, business, and NGOs) during the week
  of Spring Break.  You can take this separately (not recommended) or in
  addition to the 3 credit course.

  ---------------------------------------------------------
  Course Title:  Ecosystem Service Modeling
  Course number: PBIO 295, NR285
  Number of Credits: 1
  Max enrollment: 20
  Prerequisites: experience in basic statistics and ecology
  Meeting time(s): MTWRF 1:00 - 4:00 pm March 8 - 12 (Spring recess)
  Class location: Gund Conference Room
  Instructors: Kenneth Bagstad, Gary Johnson, Brian Voigt,
               Marta Ceroni, Ferdinando Villa 
  ---------------------------------------------------------


  If there are enough people interested in jumping in, I should be able
  to persuade Xindong to make it a CS295 course, which would certainly
  be useful to folks in filling their credit requirements.  And since
  you've missed the first class (ES Theory), I'd be happy to run an
  extra session with any new folks to get you up to speed with everyone
  else.

  So that being said, I cast this post to the winds, and we'll see what
  comes of it.

  Hack the Planet...really,
    ~Gary

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