SIAM News Blog

A Look at the Plenary Talks at MPE18

The second SIAM Conference on Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE18) will take place this September in Philadelphia, Pa.
The second SIAM Conference on Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE18) will take place this September in Philadelphia, Pa. As in the 2016 inaugural conference, researchers will use plenary talks, minisymposia, and contributed papers and posters to communicate mathematical problems and results about Earth as a physical system, a system supporting life, a system managed by humans, and a system at risk. This year’s plenary talks will focus on the role of humans in managing natural resources, predicting and mitigating hazards, and shaping a livable environment. The following are capsule previews of these four talks.

Clint Dawson

Where Water Meets Land: The Mathematics of the Coastal Ocean

Coastal regions around the world are home to millions of people. These regions are economic engines that hold delicate ecosystems. However, as we have seen in the past decade, they face threats from a variety of factors, including a combination of hazardous events, climate change, and overdevelopment. In this talk, I will explore problems related to water at the coast: the interaction of ocean with land, the impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes, and our attempts to protect coastal populations while facing the realities of an uncertain future. I will describe mathematical challenges, along with model- and data-driven studies to better understand these issues.

Clint Dawson is the John J. McKetta Centennial Energy Chair in Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a professor in the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, and head of the Computational Hydraulics Group.

Suzanne Lenhart

Optimal Control Techniques Applied to Management of Natural Resource Models

Humans manage natural resources for a variety of reasons, such as to optimally harvest them with minimal ecological impact or to suppress or prevent large-scale damaging events. Through two examples—one involving fish harvesting and the other concerning fire events—my talk will demonstrate the use of techniques from optimal control theory for such purposes. In the first example, I model the optimal harvest of fishery stocks while minimizing negative effects on fish habitat with a system of partial differential equations that capture the problem’s spatiotemporal dynamics. I then investigate the tradeoff between managing forests for fire prevention and monetary spending to suppress fires with a model that incorporates the stochasticity of large-scale fire events.

Suzanne Lenhart is a Chancellor’s Professor of Mathematics at the University of Tennessee and the Associate Director for Education and Outreach at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. She also worked as a part-time research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for 22 years.

Bertrand Lemasson

Insights from Studying the Interface between Sentience and Sociability in Animal Movement Patterns

Animals’ sensory capabilities have important fitness consequences, but so does their sociability. Creatures large and small, from herds of grazing animals to schools of fish, rely on their senses for both navigation through the world and social interactions, which in turn influence their abilities to track resources, avoid threats, and find mates. Efforts to model and manage natural resources rarely take such social processes into account. An important complication is that the benefits of social interaction are context-dependent; organisms must rapidly decide when and whom to follow. This presentation will demonstrate how individual animal interactions arise and why their study is important. It will examine the influence of these interactions on individual capabilities like stamina, memory, and the ability of ephemeral social ties to generate collective movements that deviate drastically from our expectations. I will then review how we can integrate such information into mathematical models and put it into practice to improve ecosystem management.

Bertrand Lemasson is a behavioral ecologist at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Oregon. He is currently part of an interdisciplinary group that studies questions at the interface of cognitive ecology and ecohydraulics.

Claudia Sagastizabal

How Energy Optimization is Responding to the Challenge of Decarbonizing our Economies

Worldwide efforts to complete the transition to sustainable energy systems rely crucially on the shift from electricity generation based on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, the process is fraught with complications: such renewable sources are often intermittent, and their storage requires more distributed generation, new flexibility markets, and the facilitation of the roles of “prosumers” (producers/consumers) and aggregators in the energy value chain. These changes in technology and market structure, combined with the expected massive electrification of transportation, will make electricity supply and demand less predictable but potentially more versatile. The new paradigms for the operation and pricing of energy systems result in multiobjective and bilevel optimization models whose inherent nonconvexity poses challenges from the mathematical viewpoint — on both theoretical and numerical levels. During this talk, I will discuss the resulting opportunities for mathematical researchers and new problems of control and optimization that arise in this context.

Claudia Sagastizabal is an independent mathematical researcher based at the Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Trained in numerical optimization, she has extensive experience working with large companies in the energy and automobile sectors in Europe and South America.

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