My main research project(s) during my graduate work centered on modeling the adaptability of farmers in the Iowa-Cedar River Basin (ICRB) in Iowa, and their impacts on watershed-scale resilience. My completed dissertation can be found here: https://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/5715/. The first manuscript from from this work was recently published in Environmental Science & Policy (link), and additional papers are undergoing minor tweaks to fit themes of upcoming issues of JASSS and Sustainability. They should be in review in the coming months.
In this research, I developed an empirically-parameterized agent-based model (ABM) of land use transitions and practices in the Clear Creek Watershed, a sub-watershed of the ICRB. We surveyed ICRB farmers to identify the key constraints on their individual adaptability. I then used those data to parameterize farmer agent decision algorithms in a spatially explicit framework. Finally, I we coupled the land use model with climate and a SWAT model. To do so, I designed an annual, bi-directional coupling to link farmer agent decisions to changes in land use, and then linked environmental changes back to agent decision making. Our hope is that the work can be used to better understand the effects of baseline and alternative policy and climate perturbations on future system trajectories.
Along the way, I published earlier work on the same project with my adviser, David Bennett. Our first paper was published in Ecology & Society, and explored the use of stability landscapes to operationalize social-ecological resilience theory. Resilience theory and the stability landscape framework provide a useful method for conceptualizing the existence and resilience of potential states in a within the context of a social-ecological system (SES). However, these concepts have proven difficult to quantify in the context of social-ecological resilience due to the complex, multi-dimensional nature of the systems of interest and the breadth of the resilience concept. To that end, I developed a stylized model of an agricultural system typical of the Midwestern United States, coupling land use, biophysical models, and economic drivers with an agent-based model to explore the effects of perturbations and adaptations on the system. By operationalizing resilience theory within the stability landscape framework, we are able to estimate the sensitivity of a system to perturbations, determine other potential system states, and characterize changes in system resilience brought on by adaptation. This process provided an initial step towards finding alternative configurations for this and other social-ecological systems. That manuscript can be found here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/26269963
Prior to finishing my dissertation, Dave and I presented some of the work at GIScience 2016 in Montreal. In this instance, we our work took a more philosophical turn, and we explored how ABMs are a particularly good methodological fit for social-ecological resilience research. Our paper, as well as the work of others, was part of a pre-conference workshop titled Rethinking the ABCs: Agent-Based Models and Complexity Science in the age of Big Data, CyberGIS, and Sensor networks. Selected papers from the workshop were published as an edited volume. You can find our chapter of that volume here: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-65993-0_2
This work as funded by” NSF CNH Award #1114978: People, Water, and Climate: Adaptation and Resilience in Agricultural Watersheds (PI: David A. Bennett)