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Report from the 2nd USGS Modeling Conference, February 10-14, 2008, in Orange Beach, Alabama

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EarthVision model by Mike Pantea shown on the GeoWall system.
Above: EarthVision model by Mike Pantea shown on the GeoWall system. Photograph by Chris Polloni. [larger version]

The 2nd U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Modeling Conference was held February 10-14, 2008, in Orange Beach, Alabama. Sponsored by the USGS, this multidisciplinary conference built upon the success of the first conference, held in 2005 at the Olympic Park Institute in Port Angeles, Washington (see "Proceedings of the First All-USGS Modeling Conference, November 14–17, 2005"). Whereas the first conference focused on understanding the current status of modeling within the USGS, the second conference focused on interagency collaboration and brought together scientists and managers from both within and beyond the USGS. The intent was to foster collaboration and encourage participants to share information in the hope that this cooperation would result in both short- and long-term enhancements of USGS modeling capabilities and science. The conference also provided a showcase for participants to display their modeling capabilities.

Chris Polloni of the USGS Woods Hole Science Center (Woods Hole, Massachusetts) attended the training session on MapWindow GIS, an open-source, programmable geographic-information system (GIS) that supports manipulation, analysis, and viewing of geospatial data and associated attribute data in several standard GIS formats. The 4-hour introduction and overview showed participants how to build a customized GIS tailored to a user's data and intended use. Each attendee received a demo CD, a newly released guide, and a T-shirt! Polloni had seen MapWindow GIS used at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The software is useful but does require some knowledge of the C or C# programming languages.

The second day of the conference started off with USGS Chief Scientist for Geology Linda Gunderson (Reston, Virginia) and USGS Central Regional Director Thomas Casadevall (Denver, Colorado) welcoming the attendees to the conference. During her opening remarks, Gunderson discussed the need for more powerful computers ("big iron") to support the robustness of our modeling community. She also urged us to use the new USGS Science Strategy, as set forth in "Facing Tomorrow’s Challenges—U.S. Geological Survey Science in the Decade 2007–2017" (USGS Circular 1309), to guide our efforts in interdisciplinary science, data integration, creating decision-support tools, and modeling scenarios. Gunderson's address was followed by a day full of oral presentations and panel sessions on the first two conference themes: Integrated Landscape Monitoring/Modeling and Global Change. The afternoon saw the audience participating in a town-hall-style meeting titled "Global Climate Change: Modeler’s Input." The day ended with a poster session on the topics presented during the earlier oral presentations.

One of the poster sessions featured the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program's GeoWall—a stereo projection system for visualizing the Earth's surface and subsurface and the processes that affect them. The GeoWall was used to present an array of 3D and 4D model products, which were viewed by using 3D polarized glasses. USGS geologist Mike Pantea  (Denver, Colorado) had used EarthVision software to model the geologic framework of part of the Edwards aquifer in Texas; he demonstrated additional usefulness of the modeling tool by showing water-level change over time. Several USGS DVD information products were provided as examples of how to publish interactive models. A "virtual" Brian Davis (USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Data Center) was present by recorded voice synced with an animated ArcScene model of a forest fire spreading through various habitats and terrain. Consultant Mike Kelly's educational model of Sunset Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona, was shown by Polloni, who provided instruction on using remote-control devices (such as the Rumblepad and ROMA) to navigate the scene. A submarine flythrough of the Puerto Rico Trench included views of sub-sea-floor earthquake hypocenters to indicate the orientation of the subduction-zone fault. Two computers were used to run the GeoWall system: a Linux system configured by Dave Foster of the Woods Hole Science Center for use with EarthVision, and a Windows XP Shuttle to support everything else. Dynamic Graphics, Inc., provided an EarthVision temporary license for use at the conference.

Mike Pantea at the GeoWall GeoWall display of the forest-fire model created by Brian Davis
Above left: Mike Pantea at the GeoWall, tuning up his EarthVision model of the Edwards aquifer in Texas. Photograph by Chris Polloni. [larger version]

Above right: GeoWall display of the forest-fire model created by Brian Davis. Photograph by Chris Polloni. [larger version]

This year’s meeting was built around four themes: Integrated Landscape Monitoring/Modeling, Global Change, Ecosystem Modeling, and Hazards and Risks. More than 160 attendees participated in this year's event, which began on a Monday with free workshops: "An Introduction to Structural Equation Modeling," "MapWindow GIS—Integrating Modeling into a Customizable, Open-Source GIS," and "An Introduction to Using PEST—a Model Independent Parameter Estimation and Uncertainty Analysis Code."

Heather Henkel of the USGS Florida Integrated Science Center office in St. Petersburg and Leonard Pearlstine of Everglades National Park presented a poster titled "Spatially Continuous Interpolation of Water Stage and Water Depths Using the Everglades Depth Estimation Network (EDEN)." EDEN is an integrated network of real-time water-level monitoring, ground-elevation modeling, and water-surface modeling that provides scientists and managers with current (1999 to present), online water-depth information for the entire freshwater portion of the Greater Everglades. Data and tools available at the EDEN Web site enable investigators to calculate water depth and infer other hydrologic characteristics—such as recession rates, time since last dry period, and water-surface slope—virtually anywhere in the Everglades, including sites difficult to visit in the field. EDEN is funded by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and the USGS Priority Ecosystem Sciences (PES), with collaborative support from Federal and State Government agencies, scientists in South Florida, and the University of Florida.

Heather Henkel explaining the Everglades Depth Estimation Network field-trip group hiking in Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
Above left: Heather Henkel explaining the Everglades Depth Estimation Network (EDEN) for modeling water stage and depths in the Greater Everglades. Photograph by Chris Polloni. [larger version]

Above right: The field-trip group hiking in Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. Photograph by Chris Polloni. [larger version]

On Wednesday, many attendees enjoyed a vigorous field trip to Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, Grand Bay, 5 Rivers (Alabama's Delta Resource Center), and Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Some participants remained behind to participate in ad hoc working groups. That evening, a second poster session was devoted to the last two themes: Ecosystem Modeling, and Hazards and Risks. The final day featured oral presentations and panel discussions on these two themes and closed with remarks by Linda Gunderson.

Related Web Sites
Proceedings of the First All-USGS Modeling Conference, November 14-17, 2005 - Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5308
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)
Facing Tomorrow's Challenges—U.S. Geological Survey Science in the Decade 2007-2017 - USGS Circular 1309
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)
Everglades Depth Estimation Network (EDEN)
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)

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Corals, Habitats, and Paleoclimate in the Drake Passage

Scientists and the Media: Impacts of Sea-level Rise

USGS NWRC Celebrates National Women's History Month

USGS Promoted at National Science Teachers Association Conference

Meetings Field Trip for Association of American Geographers Meeting

USGS Modeling Conference

Publications New Poster Depicts Complex Bathymetry in Northern Monterey Bay

August 2008 Publications List

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