Scientists are modeling many aspects of complex natural ecosystems simultaneously, from a single tree to the chemistry of the soil it is growing in. The Spatial Modeling Environment eliminates much of the complicated programming once required to create these virtual landscapes.

Where science and public policy meet, computer modelers soon follow. This is especially true in the arena of natural resources conservation. To preserve threatened river systems, wetlands, and prairies, scientists are called on to answer some fundamental questions: What do we have? How does it work? How do we keep it healthy? Computer models help answer these questions.

  Robert Costanza
University of Maryland
Thmoas Maxell
University of Maryland

Of course, if you're not a whiz at computer modeling, you could find yourself up a stream without a paddle. But help is on the way: Physicist Thomas Maxwell and his colleagues at the University of Maryland's Institute for Ecological Economics have created a new tool for building complex computer simulations of ecosystems.

Called the Spatial Modeling Environment (SME), the program is the fruit of a decade of research at the Institute, a member of the Alliance Application Technologies Environmental Hydrology team. The SME allows a scientist to construct sophisticated models of ecosystems in a point-and-click graphical environment. Maxwell and his colleagues Robert Costanza and Ferdinando Villa hope SME will do for modeling what PCs did for computing: not only make using the system a whole lot easier, but also open the process to people whose lack of technical savvy previously shut them out. Call it ecological modeling for the masses.

Access Online | Posted 10-19-1999

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