2000 World Conference on Natural Resource Modeling
Wageningen, the Netherlands, June 26-30, 2000
by Bob Fray
The annual meeting of the Resource Modelling Association was held June 26-30 at the Wageningen International Conference Centre in Wageningen, The Netherlands. Of the 84 participants from 17 different countries, 37 were from the Netherlands, 11 from the U.S., 9 from Australia, 6 from the U.K., 5 from South Africa, and 4 from Canada. Forty-one talks were given and 13 posters were presented.
"The Ecology of Scale" was the theme of the conference, and at the conclusion of the final session each day the individual presentations were summarized and tied together by one of the invited "trail-blazers".
At the end of the first day, Jim Reynolds, from Duke University in the U.S., addressed the question of how to recognize and grasp scale-related problems. He pointed out some of the pitfalls of scaling and gave a number of recommendations, which included the following: define objectives with respect to scale, identify critical thresholds, model variability near the thresholds, and attempt models at various scales. In conclusion he recommended the creation of a group of modellers to develop a recipe book to clearly present the rules, pitfalls and tools of modelling at various scales.
After the second day of talks, Mark Stafford Smith, from CSIRO in Australia, discussed the lessons learned from applications. He also discussed the problem of being aware of when and where scaling matters. One problem is that at times we don't recognize the effects of decisions at one scale on what occurs at another scale. Mark discussed the issues of scaling up and scaling down, and in conclusion he seconded Jim Reynold's idea of a recipe book.
On the final day of the conference, Andrew Skidmore, from ITC in the Netherlands, addressed the issue of whether scale-related models provide a better understanding of phenomena in the real world. His answer is yes, if the model is "upscalable" and scale dependent. Knowledge of scale is a prerequisite to detecting where scale is important.
One very promising aspect of the conference was the large number of papers presented by students and young researchers. The award for the best student paper was given to two students for their presentations - Kathryn Koch from the University of Natal, and Jessica Bridson from the University of Strathclyde.
On the evening preceding the conference participants were welcomed at reception hosted by the Wageningen City Council with remarks by Paul Apeldorn, the City Councilor for Economic Affairs. On Wednesday, the 27th, many of us took an all-day trip to the province of Zeeland to view and hear a presentation about a massive storm-surge project. At the conclusion of the conference was an afternoon trip to the Kröller-Müller museum to see many of the works of Van Gough.
The conference dinner, which was Thursday night, had to be delayed in order that everyone could watch the semi-final soccer match for the European Cup between the Netherlands and Italy. The only disappointment of the conference was that our host country did not make the finals, but the remainder of the evening was a rousing success with wonderful food and wine and a most delightful performance by the "Patini's", an animated group of high school musicians. John Hearne, RMA president, made several awards, among which were a tube of lipstick to Rick Moll to complete his exotic wardrobe, a bucket to Gordie Swartzman to hold his numerous comments and questions after each talk, and a toilet disk to Max Rietkerk to help him with his problems of scale.
All the participants appreciated the efforts by our hosts, the Production Ecology and Resource Conservation group at Wageningen University, especially Max Rietkerk, for such an enjoyable and well organized meeting. For funding this conference we wish to thank the Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences, the Netherlands Foundation for Earth and Life Sciences, the Foundation for the Advancement for Tropical Research, and Wageningen University.