University of Michigan,
School of Natural Resources and Environment

I completed my Ph.D. in the Winter of 2009. The dissertation, Effects of land-use policy, forest fragmentation, and residential parcel size on land-cover and carbon storage in Southeastern Michigan, has the overarching goal of improving our understanding of the coupled natural-human land-use system in Southeastern Michigan. To accomplish this task Chapter Two presents an implementation of the DEED (Dynamic Exurban Ecological Development) model, which was used to evaluate the effects of land-use policies on forest cover. This research demonstrates one way to improve our understanding of how policy and land-use and land-cover change (LUCC) interact and can influence aggregate forest cover. The chapter provides novel contributions in the form of a framework for evaluating land-use policy effects on development and land cover, an approach to integrate an agent-based model with a geographic information system (GIS), and new examples of methods to empirically inform agent-based models.

To extend coupled natural-human systems research to include the ecological effects of LUCC and policy scenarios, Chapter Three presents an analysis of the effects of forest patch size and shape, and landscape pattern, on carbon storage estimated by BIOME-BGC. New insights from this research showed 1) the inclusion of within-forest-patch air-temperature heterogeneity can significantly influence carbon storage estimates, 2) that carbon storage estimates increase logarithmically with increasing forest fragmentation when only within-patch heterogeneity of air temperature is considered, and 3) the utility of integrating GIS and BIOME-BGC for site data collection and visualization of results.

To better evaluate the effects of land-use development policies on land-cover change and ecosystem function, effectively combining the products of Chapters Two and Three, an analysis of land cover at the residential parcel level was necessary. Land-cover analyses at the parcel level have rarely been done. Chapter Four takes a step to remedy this problem by presenting new data that describe the quantity, fragmentation, and autocorrelation of land-cover within residential land-use parcels. Results from Chapter Four could extend the policy analysis in Chapter Two, conducted at the subdivision level, to the individual parcel such that we could evaluate policies that affect individual residents and their behavior. By capturing the distribution and patterns of land-cover types across different parcel sizes we can begin to understand the linkages between household land-cover behaviors, neighborhood interactions, and landscape patterns.

Ph.D. Committee

Dissertation committee (2005). From left to right: Dr. William S. Currie, Dr. Daniel G. Brown , Derek T. Robinson, Dr. Rick L. Riolo, and Dr. Scott E. Page.


Tough Choices: Land use under a changing climate

This German-US conference was jointly organized by the German Research Foundation, the Federal Ministry of Eduction and Research of Germany, and the National Science Foundation. The conference was held on October 2nd and 3rd, 2008, in Berlin. The conference provided a forum to compare German and American research on land use and climate change as well as initiated a dialogue for continued colloboration and dissemination of research findings. This was the first of what will hopefully be many to come. One of the products from the workshop was a report on joint German-US research activities in the field of Land Use and Global Change. The report was submitted to Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)/Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Additional information posted by the Berlin host can be found here as well as press release here. A photo of the group is displayed below with participants listed in the report.

NIH Roadmap Initiative “Population, Land Use Change, &
Health Frontier Regions.”

In May – 2006 – I attended the final of 3 NIH Roadmap workshops that were designed to “bring together representatives of [several] each case study site[s] and a small group of spatial modelers to examine ABM and CA approaches (and plans) of each of the case study groups (where appropriate), mechanisms for synthesizing across sites, and the challenges for moving beyond case studies.” The workshop was held for 3 days from May 17-19, 2006 at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Several papers resulted, including one titled “Land use change: complexity and comparisons.” The workshops were organized by Ronald R. Rindfuss, Barbara Entwisle, and Stephen J. Walsh of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Roadmap workhop Hawaii

From left to right. Back Row: Derek Robinson, Peter Deadman, Daniel Brown, Tom Evans. Middle Row: Emilio Moran, Stephen Walsh, Marc Linderman, Peter Verburg, William Parton, Carlos Mena, Nathan Badenoch, Maggi Kelly, Joe Messina, Jianguo Liu. Front Row: Pramote Prasartkul, Myron Gutmann, Yothin Sawangdee, An Li, Dawn Parker, Barbara Entwisle, Pornwilai Saipothong, Gang Zhong, and George Malanson. Missing: Jefferson Fox, Ronal Rindfuss.


Multi-Agent Modelling and Collaborative Planning
Method2Method Workshop.

The M2M workshop was coorganized by Thomas Berger, Franz Gatzweiler, Marco Huigen, Dawn Parker, Derek T. Robinson, and Heidi Wittmer. It took place in Bonn – Germany, at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) Oct. 8-9, 2005. The workshop had two goals 1) improve our understanding of what are the uses and limitations of combining empirical data from different data collection techniques with agent-based models, and 2) critically discuss the possbility, uses, and types of land-use modelling primitives and model sharing techniques to increase model building efficiency, understanding, and sharing. I delivered a presentation on land-use modelling primitives with the following slides. The workshop was problem-based and used a case study focused on coffee farmers in Ethiopia a frame of reference for uniting our discussions. The data collection techniques that were discussed were spatial inference, household surveys, participatory observations, companion modelling, and field experiments. The outline of the workshop with further details is provided and a paper from the workshop is available.

Method2Method Workshop, Germany

From left to right. Back row: Nicolas Becu, Dan Brown, Oliver Jungklaus, Richard Aspinall, Thomas Berger, Nick Gotts, Pieter Van Oel, Kathrin Happe, Franz Gatzweiler. Middle row: Warong Naivinit, Panomsak Promburom, Ole Benjamin Schroeder, Dawn Parker, Marco Janssen, Pepijn Schreinemachers, Heidi Wittmer. Front row: Maction Komwa, Marco Huigen, Derek Robinson, and Koen Ovenmars. Attendents missing from photo are listed in the workshop outline.

Summer Institute on Agent-based Modeling and Natural Resources

This summer program was focused on agent-based modeling techniques in the field of environmental and natural resource management. Held at Indiana University by CIPEC and instructed by Marco Janssen and Francois Bousquet, the attendents participated in lectures, discussions, and worked collaboratively on ABM techniques related to environmental and natural resource management topics. Participants also presented and discussed their research as a forum to obtain critiques and advice from peers in their related fields. After the institute I also had the priviledge to attend the workshop on Empirical techniques for testing agent based models also held by CIPEC at IU. From these efforts I coauthored a paper with Dr. Daniel G. Brown that evaluated the “Effects of Heterogeneity in Residential Preferences on an Agent-Based Model of Urban Sprawl”.

CIPEC Workshop, Indiana

From Left to Right. Back Row: Heather Leslie, Marco Huigen, Marco Janssen, Francois Bousquet, Moira Zellner, Shade Shutters, Tei Laine, Alessio Sebastiano. Front Row: Daniel Castillo, Andrew Kliskey, Alex Smajgl, Panomsak Probronum, and Derek Robinson.

Santa Fe Institute Complex Systems Summer School Program

I was very fortunate to have the chance to attend the Santa Fe Institute Complex Systems Summer School Program. I find it fascinating that everyone that I have talked to who has attended the summer school program describes their time at the school as magical. I guess when you are blessed with amazing lecturers and cutting edge topics, 50 of the brightest and most open graduate students, 20 of the nicest and most knowledgable people private industry has to offer, amazing geography, and one good mountain bike to take serious punishment…. Its hard not to find Santa Fe magical…

Aside from the “magic”, I worked on a project, with Britton Shepardson – an anthropologist at the University of Hawaii, to create a simple model of the commons dilemma. Exploration of the model space demonstrated that it is possible for private individuals to outlast the commons when heterogeneity is accounted for in both the population and the environment. I also worked on a project that attempted to define and model the influence and feedback effects that local area land use and land cover change have on local area climate and vice versa. Todd Bendor, Brian Powell, Jeff Bielicki, and myself were able to merely scratch the surface of this magnanimous topic; however, that one scratch may grow deeper and larger with time.

Santa Fe

Master’s of Environmental Studies, University of Waterloo,
Faculty of Environmental Studies

During my Master’s I continued specialising in geomatics and majoring in geography; however, it was at this time that I moved on from GIS and Remote Sensing to Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) under Dr. Peter Deadman (advisor). My thesis “Modelling Farmer Household Decision Making and its Effects on Land Use/Cover Change in the Altamira Region, Para, Brazil“, and subsequent paper, involved the creation of an ABM to explore the effects that the changing household structure and size of Brazilian subsistence farmers had on deforestation trends and farmer decision making. The model was built to complement a conceptual model developed from survey research by Brondizio et al. (2002) and McCracken et al. (2002). Results from comparing model outcomes with remotely sensed data showed significant similarities in deforestation trends and therefore further strengthened the conceptual model and idea that a direct link exists between household structure and size, and rates of deforestation.


Bachelor of Environmental Studies, University of Waterloo,
Faculty of Environmental Studies

I was very fortunate to have been accepted into (and completed!) the Bachelor of Environmental Studies Honours Co-operative Degree, major in geography. The co-operative degree is unique in that students alternate between school and work every four months. This amazing opportunity created much of my work experience, and I was still able to obtain the Certificate of Excellence in GIS, a minor in economics, specialisation in information technologies, and play regularly in two rock bands. My senior honours thesis “Campground Management Facilitated by Geographical Information Systems and Visual Basic” combined remotely sensed images, GIS, and Visual Basic programming with MapObjects to create a software product that could be used to manage both spatial and nonspatial characteristics of a campground owned by my family.


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