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We started the year in sunny Arizona

by Gunnar Dreßler

Directly after New Year’s Day, Birgit, Felix and Gunnar went off to a trip that took them half-way around the globe to Tempe, Arizona. Here, all three took part in a Winter School on modeling human decision-making in agent-based models of social-ecological systems: Felix as a participant, and Birgit and Gunnar as instructors. The Winter School was a follow-up to the Summer School hosted near Leipzig in 2015, this time organized by our colleagues at the Arizona State University.  The group of participants consisted of 19 PhD students and Postdocs, mostly from the US, but some also took a long journey from Europe and South America.

In a mix of inspiring lectures in the morning and group project work in the afternoon, the first week in Arizona passed almost in an instant. At the end, all participants achieved to not only broaden their knowledge on behavioral theories and the challenges associated with implementing such theories in agent-based models, they also mastered some of these challenges in their own modeling projects. Here, the groups could work on a range of tasks in on one of three models, including the RAGE Rangeland Grazing model developed by Gunnar in the course of his PhD work in POLISES.

Of course the Winter School was not just about work – we also enjoyed good discussions over coffee and cake (which was provided in abundance to keep our spirits alive), walks in the Arizona winter sun (where winter means 23°C) and relaxed group dinners. On our free day on Sunday we even took a few steps into the desert around Tempe, where our colleague Andres took us.  

In our second week, we had the opportunity to meet and exchange with several researchers of the Arizona State University. Birgit gave a seminar talk on “Maladaptive outcomes? Potential socioecological effects of climate insurance in agriculture” that spurred lively discussions and received very positive feedback. We also took the chance to brainstorm about new ideas for collaborations.

At this rate, two weeks pass by like nothing. But whereas Birgit and Gunnar packed their bags two fly back to home, Felix will ‘stay behind’ in Arizona for three more months: until the end of March, Felix will work in the group of our colleague Marco Janssen where he will explore some ideas for a third PhD chapter (and test his resilience to heat stress).

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