UNT Research, Volume 17, 2008 Page: 44
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study the effects of human actions - such
as urbanization or deforestation - on the
natural ecosystems in the Lake Ray Roberts/
Lake Lewisville Greenbelt Corridor and
Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas and
in South America's rain forests. This work
would continue under the auspices of
IMPACS and could be replicated elsewhere.
The institute would reach beyond
traditional environmental impact studies, the
researchers say, by considering models of
human behavior with state-of-the-art science
system models. Such pairing of human and
nature systems produces a more sophisticated
and informed policy analysis - one that
could be tailored to meet the information
needs of decision makers.
"This whole notion of coupling models
of human decision-making and models of
natural systems is fairly new," Monticino says.
Traditionally, scholars focused on
either nature or society separately, says
Acevedo, explaining that the new work tries
to pull the two together in a responsive way.
UNT researchers are trying to create
a totally interactive system in which humans
receive feedback from the environmental
systems model and react based on that
information. Forest landscape models, for
example, can show the effects that land-use
decisions will have on land cover over time,
allowing for more informed decisions that are
more likely to help sustain the environment.
The modeling framework can be used
in a variety of settings. In a proposed project
involving the Texas Gulf Coast region, the
researchers would model the physical and
social structure damage from hurricanes,
including wind and flood assessment and
social surveys of individuals affected by such
storms. They hope to learn about human
perceptions and reactions regarding forecast
uncertainties and evacuation directives during
these natural disasters so that policymakers
and local governments can better prepare
evacuation and disaster relief resources.
A WIDER SCALE
One of the key functions of IMPACS
would be to offer the research on a wider
scale, making it more accessible to local,
state and national policy-makers and insti-
tutions in this country and others. The
institute would provide timely assessments
on a variety of environmental concerns such
as land-use management and disaster effects
and perhaps even immigration pressures on
housing and municipal resources.
"Nowadays, there is an enormous
amount of data," says David Hunter, who
has worked with UNT researchers in his
role as watershed protection manager for
the city of Denton. "We all have informa-
"Part of this project is to find ways to
get this information to leaders in a more
streamlined format so they can look at it
quickly, see what's going on, swiftly make a
decision about budget and determine what
projects they're going to support."
Uniting the talents of natural and
social scientists, policy analysts, mathemati-
cians and engineers to assess consequences of
high-impact policy decisions, the work also
provides unique interdisciplinary training
to undergraduate and graduate students to
prepare them to be the next generation of
scientists and policymakers. U
UNT's planned Institute for Modeling
and Policy Assessment of Complex
Systems will serve as a resource
to municipal, state, federal and inter-
national agencies to provide timely
assessments for environmental policy,
land-use management, disaster
effects and immigration pressures
on housing and municipal resources.
Researchers, who already have
secured funding from federal agen-
cies for their work, study the complex
interactions between environments
and humans, focusing on how human
decisions affect the environment,
and how those effects influence
subsequent decisions. The work also
provides interdisciplinary training
For more information, visit
www. uin t. edlLil ntresearch.
44 o 2008 UNT RESEARCH
The schematic for a land-use change model shows Interactions among land owners, developers,
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University of North Texas. UNT Research, Volume 17, 2008, periodical, 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc115031/m1/44/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.