Five broad areas of environmental modelling research were addressed during the conference:
- Integrated modelling philosophies
- Reactive transport & biogeochemistry across scales
- Geology-hydrology interactions
- Modelling of land-surface processes
- Uncertainty quantification in environmental modelling
The sessions from Jef Caers (Stanford), Richelle Allen-King (Buffalo) and Jasper Vrugt (UC Irvine) seemed the most relevant to my proposed course of study. I found talks from Philippe Van Cappellen (Waterloo), Gabriel Katul (Duke) and Erkan Istanbulluoglu (Washington) to be engaging - they were able to explain the complexities in their work to an audience with a wide range of interests. Two poster sessions during the conference allowed other participants to present their work, as well as promoted discussion between researchers.
The Gordon Conference-style of presentation allowed for some vigorous discussion, most notably between Jef Caers and Jasper Vrugt. To me it was clear that they bring very different perspectives and motivations to the field of environmental modelling, both of which are necessary.
Jef's role as professor for energy resources engineering at Stanford includes assisting oil & gas producers to make decisions regarding the location of hydrocarbon reservoirs, and thus where new drilling will occur. He is interested in presenting information to people who may not be familiar with the mathematical tools he is using but need to make decisions based on his work. Lead times in the energy industry are short (around three months) and the end goal is ultimately economic - to produce enough resources to make a profit.
Jasper's work as assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering at UC Irvine focuses more on optimisation and the quantification of uncertainty in environmental modelling. At the IRTG he presented on how the modelling cycle could be improved, particularly the reformation of hypotheses following model-data analysis. It is my opinion that his focus on developing better modelling methods is much more 'fundamental' science than the applied work conducted by Jef, and neither approach can be neglected.
I'm hoping to follow this idea up with a post on the 'fundamental/applied' dichotomy in science that I am starting to discover as delve deeper into the rabbit hole.