This week I'm attending the US-IALE conference in Snowbird, Utah, with the tagline "Coupling Humans and Complex Ecological Landscapes". We kicked off with a keynot from Thomas Baerwald, from the NSF, about "Facilitating the Conduct of Naturally Humane and Humanely Natural Research". He talked about the concept of "natural", and the fact that there are very few systems in the world which haven't been interfered with or shaped by humanity in some way (although natural is still a useful shorthand for less human-driven systems). He also talked a lot about interdisciplinary research and how necessary it is: "nature don't know discipline boundaries", how hard it is to make sure that people in interdisciplinary work are really working across disciplines, rather than just wanting results in their own disciplines, but staying well within their comfort zones. There was a lot of talk about how to get funding for interdisciplinary research from the NSF, which I won't cover here.
I started the day in the "Habitat Modelling Across Landscapes" session. There were lots of talks, so I'll only do quick mentions except for exciting bits. Julie Heinrichs had a simulation of kangaroo rats, looking at which habitat variables were really important to their survivability. She was using HexSim, which I hadn't come across before. Sam Riffell gave a great talk, which had a lot to do with measuring consistency across different models; by creating regression models with parameters selected by different methods (wp:Bayesian information criterion, wp:Stepwise regression etc.) he computed consistency metrics based on a) the number of parameters in common across the models, and b) the relative strengths of the parameters in each model. Lene Kjaer was looking at modelling movement in IBMs, taking inspiration from Morales 04, comparing tagged deer movements with models. Richard Lance talked about genetic structure among songbirds, and its relationship to landscape structure.
Now across to the Complexity in Human-Nature Interactions sessions. Michael Monticino was talking about Cross-Site and Cross-Cultural Synthesis. It was a great talk, but unfortunately my notes don't let me reconstruct much of it. Guillermo Podesta talked about modelling acrigultural changes in the Argentine Pamapas, and how the agricultural landscape is becoming more fragile, with less crop rotations, and lots of soy being grown. He also talked about cognitive strategies for agents, and wp:Prospect Theory as part of decision making. Chuck Redman talked about a socio-ecological approach to agricultural landscape transition; the way that humans impose patterns on natural rhythms, and what things start to look like if you take the multi-century view. Very thought provoking, also mentioned looking at wp:Megapolitan regions as natural units for assesing long term change, and designer landscapes (Grimm and Redman 04)
And all that before lunch.
Next up, David Sailor talked about the interaction between human responses and extreme heat/poor air quality events; how advisories could be targeted towards avoidance or mitigation, and how this feeds back (or doesn't) into behavioural change - and how much worse extreme heat events are in dense cities with dark roofs where everyone switches on the A/C. Timothy Kohler talked about the formation of villages (in the Pueblo 1 period), which tended to happen in high production years, when it was beneficial to people to trade their surplus; also, how the kinship structure was represented in curved roomblocks, so that room proximity indicated kinship ("unilinear kinship indicators"). Herb Maschner gave a rousing talk about working with the Aleut in the Sanak Biocomplexity project, with lots of thoughts about how the entire ecosystem has been shaped by human actions for thousands of years, the value of local knowledge (and the difficulty of getting it accepted by the scientific community) and how it's impossible to keep things the way they are, but smoothing and adapting to transitions is the way to go. Jose Fragoso talked about working with indigenous people in the Amazon, and tracking the abundance of hunted species round villages - he'd trained the villagers to do some of the survey work, which seemed like a great idea.
Then the jet-lag caught up!