Humboldt State UniversityHumboldt State University
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A course primarily for college professors and instructors who want to add individual-based modeling to their teaching and research skills

Individual-based (or "agent-based") models (IBMs, ABMs) are a popular new technique for understanding how the dynamics of a complex system emerge from the characteristics and behaviors of its individual components and their environment, but they also have important advantages for real-world management problems.

Currently, it is not easy for most professors to teach students how to use IBMs. This technique requires skills that few of us have training in, and until now, there have been no textbooks. This course will introduce Agent-based and Individual-based Modeling: A Practical Introduction (2012; Princeton University Press), a textbook designed for classes in which even the instructors are new to IBMs/ABMs.

Topics to be covered include:

  • when and why to use IBMs, for both theoretical and applied science;

  • strategies for designing models that are "as simple as possible, but not simpler";

  • software techniques: programming IBMs, testing software, and running simulation experiments;

  • model analysis and publication: how to produce science once a model is built; and

  • linking your empirical research to individual-based science.

The course will use NetLogo, a software platform that greatly reduces the effort and expertise to program and use IBMs. NetLogo is free, extremely well designed and documented, widely used in science, and great fun. At the end of the course, participants should know NetLogo well enough to build basic models, teach themselves to become expert, and use the textbook to lead a class effectively.

The primary audience of this course is university professors and instructors who are considering teaching a class in individual-based modeling. Others (e.g., graduate students, scientists wanting to use IBMs in research) will be considered as space allows.

The course instructors are ecologists, and many of the examples used in the class will be ecological, but the textbook is interdisciplinary and participants from other fields are welcome.