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Social-ecological modelling at the American West Coast

by Birgit Müller

In the second half of April I had the chance to attend three interesting events in California and Oregon. First I took part in the Agent-based Modelling Symposium ABM 2017 (organised by Li An and colleagues from the Complex Human-Environment Systems Group and the Department of Geography) at San Diego State University on the current state and ways forward with regard to agent-based modelling. The symposium was a great opportunity to meet and exchange with the crème de la crème of agent-based modellers. As a last-minute support, I got the chance to co-organise the thematic session on “Human decision making in ABM” together with Dawn Parker, Maja Schlüter, Andrew Bell and Peter Verburg, since one of the convenors was eventually not able to attend the conference.

After a relatively short ride I enjoyed my first visit to the State of Oregon. I attended the second workshop of the Mountain Sentinels Network led by Anne Nolin, Jessica Thorn, Julia Klein, Robin Reid, and Catherine Tucker on “Participatory Modeling of Mountain Social-Ecological Systems” for five days near Bend. Apart from very intensive exchange on the synthesis of mountain case studies and experiences with different participatory modelling approaches, we had an interesting field trip. There we learned a lot from the “locals”, in particular Anne Nolin and Tom Spies, on the changing human-natural system of the Cascade Range (more specifically, the Willamette valley characterised by impressive forests in a volcanic landscape). Evening events included playing our educational board game NomadSed (developed in Leipzig) and listening to a nice Bluegrass band from the San Francisco Bay Area at a pub in Bend.

Afterwards, I took a greyhound bus ride across the Cascades (great views on old trees with the biggest lichen I have ever seen) to go to the University of Oregon in Eugene. I spent two days there, to visit my cooperation partner Leigh Johnson from the Geography Department and to give a talk there. With Leigh, we made final edits on a review of side effects of agricultural insurance on social-ecological systems (which will soon be published in Global Environmental Change). At the University, I enjoyed the warm welcome and interesting discussions with different people from the department. Beside work, it was nice to get an impression of Eugene as a place where alternative and green ways to live are part of everyday life.

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