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91540 Climate Change and Ecological Modelling

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Science: Life Sciences
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.

Description

Climate change and climate variability have significant impacts on natural and social systems of vegetation, water and industry. Modelling of environmental systems, including climate, provides means for prediction of climate regimes, evaluation of possible impacts of climatic change, and for optimisation of natural resources management in climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The objectives of this subject are to develop students' knowledge of climate change science, techniques of data analysis and process simulation, which enhance students' ability to evaluate and use a range of models and model frameworks to understand and research specific environmental issues. The aim of the section on climate change is to introduce students to terminology and details of the climate system, and to provide an introduction to the details of climate science and climate modelling. The aim of the ecological modelling section is to introduce knowledge of ecological responses to climate change, the system approach of ecological modelling and basic mathematical modelling techniques suited to environmental processes. Students learn techniques to apply software of ecological models to simulate plant production and water use.

This subject introduces students to modelling of environmental systems and, in particular, the principles associated with developing and using climate and ecological models. The physical basis of the climate system is introduced and factors affecting climatic change are addressed. Students build their knowledge of the physical aspects of the climate system as well as associated biogeochemical cycles (carbon and nitrogen cycling) and ecohydrology. This subject links with other subjects, such as 91541 Monitoring Ecological Variability, which introduce methodologies of data acquisition.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of following course intended learning outcomes:

  • Evaluate: Combine advanced application of in- depth and up-to-date technical knowledge and research principles in forensic science, critically evaluating the informationís source and relevance, with a focus on evidence, investigative and intelligence frameworks relevant to professional practice. (1.3)
  • Synthesise: Tackle the challenge of real-world forensic science problems by investigating, analyzing and critically evaluating different solutions to complex problems. (2.2)
  • Evaluate: Assess, argue for, and conduct appropriate approaches to independent research adopting techniques from a variety of sources in the context of relevant professional practice. (2.3)
  • Analyse: Engage in work practices that demonstrate an understanding of health and safety requirements, ethical conduct, risk management, and organisation and collaborative skills, record keeping in the context of forensic science. (3.1)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

This subject addresses the following graduate attributes of the Faculty of Science at UTS:

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

There is emphasis on the development of in-depth discipline-specific knowledge in this subject. You will learn this knowledge in class discussions and independently, where you research an aspect of interest in climate change and climate modelling and report back to the class. This subject focuses on revealing the mechanism of climate change and its impact on ecosystems and water resources through physical, physiological and chemical processes. The subject amalgamates multi-discipline knowledge from climatology, ecology, hydrology, mathematics and statistics. You will comprehensively synthesise the knowledge to tackle environmental issues. Learning will be assessed in the literature review.

2. An Inquiry-oriented approach

By its very nature, ecological modeling is driven by inquiry. This subject emphasizes project-based modeling techniques to address inquiry into how natural systems are and will be influenced by environmental change. You will develop this attribute by proposing hypotheses based on a critical assessment of system atmosphere and ecosystem function. You will learn to integrate and abstract knowledge from complex systems, and formulate conceptual models. This attribute will be assessed in the literature review.

3. Professional skills and your appropriate application

In lectures you will learn how to apply the principles of the climate system, basic physics of climate and energy balance to ecological modelling. Practicals include use of a climate model (Energy Balance Model; Daisyworld; Ocean model) and a plant production model (e.g. WOFOST) and evaluation of results. Practicals are a combination of ‘take-home’ and ‘supervised’ sessions. Workshop sessions assist in report writing and analysis.

You will learn the computing skills needed for data analysis and model simulation, which are fundamental professional skills. These skills are essential for many environmental management roles, e.g. water management, climate risk management, and environmental monitoring. The ability to apply models will be assessed in the model application tasks.

5. Engagement with the needs of society

You will learn about issues at the frontier of climate science, including: the present understanding of climate change; major IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) findings; issues in ecological responses; and human adaptation related to primary industries. You will be develop a greater understanding of the issues involved in writing reports for the public or for advising governmental officials on the recent achievement of climate change research.

You will also be introduced to applications of environmental management models related to climate change. These include land surface modeling for studying vegetation and climate interactions, agriculture system modeling for studying crop water use efficiency and fertilizer optimization, as well as estimation of greenhouse gas emission from farm land.

6. Communication skills

You will undertake exercises to develop skills in collaborative writing. Written skills will be assessed in the practical reports and the literature review.

7. Initiative and innovative ability

You will learn and show initiative and innovative ability as part of the research project for current environmental issues related to climate change. Knowledge of climate change, system thinking and skills in modeling provided in this subject will enhance your initiative and innovative ability. Ability in research initiative will be assessed in the practical reports.

Teaching and learning strategies

91540 Climate Change and Ecological Modeling will be delivered by fortnightly lectures and computer laboratory classes. In lectures, you will learn about the basics of climatology and ecology and the current issues of climate change science. Laboratory classes in computer programming and software application will develop skills in modeling techniques as applied to climate change science. You will become familiar with Excel and SPSS software for preparation of data analysis. You can find textbooks for these software from UTS Library. You will also conduct background reading in preparation for the tutorial and practical classes. You can find these related reading materials for each week on UTSOnline.

You are encouraged to work and learn collaboratively in practicals. You will have opportunities to share your skills and ideas in small groups in class, and learn and receive feedback from your classmates. You will also have opportunities to receive feedback on your progress from tutors during the tutorials and practical classes. You will receive formal feedback from your tutors within two weeks of submission of your reports.

Learning outcomes include:

1. Knowledge

1) Identify key issues in climate change science and climate modelling.

2) Identify the key components in the climate system and their interactions.

3) Describe the overall nature of the evidence for human induced climate change and have in-depth knowledge of selected aspects, including the role of models.

4) Describe the process for construction of a simple model of the climate system.

5) Identify characteristics and features of more complex models.

2. Understanding and Application

1) Differentiate between ‘feedbacks’ and ‘forcings’ and understand the significance of slow and fast feedbacks.

2) Recognise the scope and limitations of a range of modelling types.

3) Build and apply simple models, adjust parameters and analyse results in the context of the modelling assumptions.

3. Analysis and Synthesis

1) Analyse reports of modelling experiments and findings.

2) Appraise a range of reports and reporting styles in a useful way.

3) Use a range of techniques to evaluate reports and writings on climate science and climate modelling topics.

4) Get familiar with current ecological models, and apply techniques of modelling to deal with environmental issues.

5) Compare and contrast modelling outcomes from a range of different studies.

Content (topics)

This subject will refresh your meteorological and ecological knowledge. Topics covered include: climate sensitivity; model evaluation; simulation of plant photosynthesis; ecosystem production; carbon cycle and carbon sequestration; water resources; and land surface processes. You get the chance to perform simple experiments on a simple model of the climate system and learn to interpret the model results in the context of the modelling assumptions made during model construction. Examples include physically based prognostic models and diagnostic models (e.g. crop yield; tropical cyclone intensity).

We will address challenges in climate change and uncertainty in model predictions. Quantitative methods will be introduced to you in the assessment of climate change impact and natural resources optimization (e.g. water allocation, land use, etc).

Modeling aspects will include fundamental principles of ecological modeling, systems approaches, quantitative model formulation, numerical techniques, parameter estimation, and mode validation. Techniques in applying software to analyse data, such as Origin will also be learned.

The subject will also focus on several contemporary topics of modeling in climate change science. These models include land surface modeling, plant photosynthesis and production modeling, biogeochemical cycle modeling, and ecohydrological modeling.

Climate change and modeling technique components will be delivered by Qiang Yu, and Kendal McGuffie will give guest lectures. Model principles, techniques in ecological modeling, and model application in resources management will be presented by Qiang Yu.

Assessment

Assessment task 1: Literature review

Intent:

This subject addresses the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

2. An Inquiry-oriented approach

5. Engagement with the needs of society

6. Communication skills

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1 and 2

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

.0, 1.3, 2.2 and 3.1

Type: Essay
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 25%
Length:

2,000 words.

Criteria:

1. Disciplinary Knowledge: You display a firm grasp of relevant climate science and its context and are able to explain the key concepts (40%).

2. Professional Practice: Your briefing paper is properly structured and clear. It abides by appropriate conventions for referencing and presentation and you have used your knowledge of communication approaches to make it appropriate for the intended audience (40%).

3. Engagement with the needs of society: your paper clearly addresses the relevance of the paper to societal needs (20%).

Assessment task 2: Exercises of simple climate models

Intent:

This subject addresses the following graduate attributes of the Faculty of Science at UTS.

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

2. An inquiry-oriented aproach

3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

6. Communication skills

7. Initiative and innovative ability

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

2, 3 and 4

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

.0, .0, 1.3, 2.2 and 2.3

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 25%
Length:

1,500 words

Criteria:

1. Disciplinary Knowledge: You display a firm grasp of modelling concepts and can explain the scientific basis of a simple model of the climate system (40%).

2. Professional Practice: You are able to interpret results from a model and place limits or caveats on the applicability of the results. You can present results in an appropriate manner and communicate findings effectively (40%).

3. Enquiry oriented approach: You will be faced with questions that require you to perform experiments with the model and analyse results. How well can you structure your enquiry to obtain the evidence that backs up your conclusions? How do you demonstrate an individual approach to analysis and make your solution of a problem stand out (20%).

Assessment task 3: Model simulation and data fitting

Intent:

This subject addresses the following graduate attributes of the Faculty of Science at UTS.

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

2. An inquiry-oriented aproach

3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

5. Engagement with the needs of society

6. Communication skills

7. Initiative and innovative ability

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

2, 3 and 4

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

.0, .0, 1.3, 2.2, 2.3 and 3.1

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 25%
Length:

1,500 words

Criteria:

1. Disciplinary Knowledge: You display a thorough understanding of the response of plant photosynthesis to changes in climate variables and of basic concepts in ecological modeling (40%).

2. Professional Practice: You are able to fit selected models to data, and conduct statistical analyses for precision of model prediction (40%).

3. Enquiry oriented approach: You demonstrate ability to identify research issues, and to develop your solutions. Your report presents results in a precise and professional manner (20%).

Assessment task 4: Model application in environmental management

Intent:

This subject addresses the following graduate attributes of the Faculty of Science at UTS.

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

2. An inquiry-oriented aproach

3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

5. Engagement with the needs of society

6. Communication skills

7. Initiative and innovative ability

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

3, 4 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

.0, .0, 1.3, 2.2, 2.3 and 3.1

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 25%
Length:

1,500 words

Criteria:

1. Disciplinary Knowledge: You display a thorough understanding of the usefulness of ecological models in environmental management in a changing climate (40%).

2. Professional Practice: You are able to install model software, and to calibrate the model. You demonstrate skills of model application for resource management (40%).

3. Enquiry oriented approach: Your report presents results clearly, including the background of environmental issues, introduction to the model, method of model calibration and validation, and discussion of the results (20%).

Minimum requirements

As a minimum requirement to pass this subject, students must complete and submit all assessment tasks and obtain at least a 40% mark for the project report.

Any assessment task worth 40% or more requires the student to gain at least 40% of the mark for that task. If 40% is not reached, an X grade fail be awarded for the subject, irrespective of an overall mark greater than 50.

Required texts

Jørgensen SE, Fundamentals of Ecological Modelling. Elsevier Science, 1994.

McGuffie, K, Henderson Sellers, A Climate Modelling Primer. Chichester ; New York : Wiley, 2005. James W. Haefner, Modeling Biological Systems: Principles and Applications. Springer, 2005.

Recommended texts

Ecological modeling : a common-sense approach to theory and practice / William E. Grant & Todd M. Swannack.

Simulation of ecological and environmental models / Miguel F. Acevedo.

Introduction to environmental modelling / Jo Smith and Pete Smith.

Ecological Climatology: Concepts and Applications / Gordon Bonan.

References

Canadell JG, Pataki DE, Pitelka LF (eds), Terrestrial Ecosystems in a Changing World. Springer. 2007.

Kabat P et al. (eds), Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Prospective on an Interactive System. Springer. 2004.

Henderson-Sellers, A. and McGuffie K., 2011, Future Climates of the World, Elsevier.