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Landscape Modeling and Horror Movies: A Great Way to Spend a Summer

Friday, July 6, 2018, by Evan Waldmann
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    My summer research project involves expanding upon the mechanistic model, LANDIS-II, that is intended to simulate forest growth over rather vast landscapes. With the use of the Thompson Lab’s Land Use Plus extension, I have been tasked with creating dynamic and reactive responses to fire occurring across the Klamath, a National Forest in Northern California.

    One of my first big efforts on the project, besides learning how to deal with ever temperamental model that is LANDIS, was to parameterize the study region. If you are unaware of what it means to parameterize a model, it is just a fancy way of saying that we needed to provide all the inputs that describe the biological and physical properties of study area. Fortunately, a lot of the work was done already or could be somewhat easily found in past literature. That is, except for the wretched photosynthetically active radiation (PAR).

    Before this summer I could have told you what each of the words that make up PAR meant individually, but through the marriage of those three separate words a new special concept is created. A concept that only confounds with each additional google search. After a couple days of digging through piles of digital research papers and textbook chapters trying to figure out the best way to transform our known quantity of solar radiation incident at the surface (SWI) into PAR, I finally figured it out and happily declared, “I now know that I don’t want to do anything that deals with PAR again!”

- Me at the beach while I reenact my search for PAR information.

    While the process might have been a bit frustrating, I am glad to have had it. Because with fall growing ever closer, I am reminded of the movie, Get Out. In particular the scene where the main character, Chris Washington just wants to get far away from his girlfriend’s creepy family. As he looks for the keys to his car, the following dialogue occurs.

Dean Armitage: What is your purpose, Chris?

Chris Washington: What?

Dean Armitage: In life. What is your purpose?

Chris Washington: Right now it's finding those keys. 

    If you’re not aware, this is a tense scene; I would even argue the it is the most stressful scene of the entire movie. In it, we see our protagonist lose all hope and become overtaken by what appears to be his final demise, much like most of us rising seniors in the program whom are being slowly but surely inundated by the ever-looming deadlines of graduate school applications.

    Lucky for us, just like Chris Washington in the final scene of Get Out, we are in good company. Through self-organized weekend GRE sessions, post lunch stretch breaks, and the few headache inducing PAR type problems that guide us to what we truly want to do with our lives, we might just be able to ... get in to one of our dream schools.

-Rolling my way to grad school. 



Photos taken by Kyle Wyche at Hampton Beach State Park

Evan is a rising Senior at University of Central Florida studying Mathematics.