Thill points out that changes in urban lands are controlled by both individual choices and larger, impersonal forces: "When you make the decision to develop your own land, that is a personal decision, but your action is also within the context of what is going on within the municipality, which has inferences as well from what is going on at the regional level, political and cultural influences, the tradition of the community and so on," Thill said, illustrating the human complexity of creating an accurate model.
"It is novel that we are using a survey-based analysis to guide the parameters of the agent-based model," Meentemeyer agreed. "Agent based models are trendy, but they are not always that well guided they are often very hypothetical. We want to ground ours with real data."
Complex Research Requires Interdisciplinary Science
Such a complex research project is possible because unusual connections have developed at UNC Charlotte across academic disciplines in natural, social and technological sciences that allow an interdisciplinary approach to the mind-boggling intricacies of interacting human and natural systems. A UNC Charlotte research specialty that comes into play is the university's Charlotte Visualization Center, a unique multi-disciplinary unit that studies advanced data analysis through developing visualization tools.
"A project like this involves tens, if not hundreds of variables," explained Charlotte Visualization Center Director and co-principal investigator Ribarsky. "We will need to look at the behavior of those variables as they interact things like pressure to develop, which is influenced by a variety of conditions
|Contact: James Hathaway|
University of North Carolina at Charlotte