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Australia's Top Models at Science Conference

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reef ecosystem model

A model of the reef ecosystem shows relationships between different species.

Credit: CSIRO

Australia's IMACS/MODSIM Congress will feature more than 650 modeling and simulation experts from around the world. Mathematical models describe the actions of complex natural and man-made systems by quantifying their key components and how they interact, says Louise Ryan, from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. "In the U.S., I worked on a model of how mercury from coal-fired power stations moves through a real food chain — from its release into the atmosphere and then into the water where it's absorbed by plankton and all the way through to humans," Ryan says.

Other models at the conference will include assessments of current and future water availability in four of Australia's major water systems, improving flight safety by predicting the safest distances between different types of aircraft, and evaluating if increased coral bleaching on Australia's Great Barrier Reef due to climate change will substantially impact tourism.

Ryan says a good computer model of a complex ecosystem could be built on decades worth of data and expert knowledge of the underlying biological or physical system. "The better the data a model is based on, the more reliable it is at predicting changes and guiding real decisions," she says. "No model is perfect, but it doesn't need to be to do a good job of predicting."

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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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