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Training the next generation of scientists: Modeling Infectious Disease and Water Quality of Montana Streams

Preprint, 2010


Status: Published

Citations:

Cite: [bibtex]


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Abstract: The University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and the Barrett Foundation have established a scholarship program for undergraduate students. The Barrett Scholarship program, aware of the importance of developing research quantitative and writing skills for undergraduate students, provides scholarships to outstanding undergraduate students for environmental engineering research projects. The intent is to help retain student interest early in their undergraduate engineering careers when few of their first or second year classes have little engineering or real-world application. We focus on one Barrett research project, derived from a NSF Biodiversity and Infectious Disease grant, because of the multiple disciplines (engineering, ecology, biology) and education levels (spanning secondary to graduate) involved. In this research, students across three departments at two universities (University of Vermont, Montana State University) and one independent high school (Vermont Commons School) formed a cohesive collaboration with faculty members to identify different worm taxa of T. Tubifex. Whirling disease has had a severe impact on the native population of salmonids in the upper Madison River MT, USA, resulting in the death of most fish that contract the parasite. T. Tubifex is the intermediate host for Myxobolus cerebralis, the parasite that causes whirling disease in salmonids. Samples collected from eight locations along the Madison River varied in the prevalence of whirling disease. The site-specific worm community structure has been measured and identified using molecular genetic probes and a taxonomic key to link worm communities to geochemical features (e.g. site elevation, slope, pH, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen and percent of organic soil matter). Using a unique clustering algorithm, we group geochemical features to discriminate over a range of water quality gradients (i.e., ``clean'' to ``dirty''). The link between water quality and the presence of these taxa is important in determining stream health. In addition, system dynamics software (STELLA) is used to model the non-linear relationships and feedback between worm prevalence and disease dynamics. These types of collaborations between engineers, biologists, field ecologists and geneticists from secondary, post-secondary and higher institutions proved useful in linking complex geochemical data, worm community structure and molecular genetics to develop the next-generation scientists and better understand disease dynamics.



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Joshua Bongard - Department of Computer Science, Associate Professor

Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.


  • Stacks Image 525371
    Josh Bongard, Victor Zykov, Hod Lipson. Resilient Machines Through
    Continuous Self-Modeling.
    Science 314, 1118 (2006). [Journal Page]
  • Stacks Image 525379
    Joey Anetsberger and Josh Bongard. Robots can ground crowd-proposed symbols by forming theories of group mind. Proceedings of the Artificial Life Conference 2016. [Link to Proceedings]
  • Stacks Image 525375
    Sam Kriegman, Nick Cheney, and Josh Bongard. How morphological development can guide evolution. arXiv 2017. [arXiv]


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Chris Danforth -Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Flint Professor of Mathematical, Natural, and Technical Sciences

Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.

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    Peter Sheridan Dodds , Kameron Decker Harris, Isabel M. Kloumann, Catherine A. Bliss, Christopher M. Danforth. Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network: Hedonometrics and Twitter. PLoS ONE 2011. [Journal Page].
  • Stacks Image 525314
    Lewis Mitchell , Morgan R. Frank, Kameron Decker Harris, Peter Sheridan Dodds, Christopher M. Danforth. The Geography of Happiness: Connecting Twitter Sentiment and Expression, Demographics, and Objective Characteristics of Place. PLoS ONE 2013. [Journal Page].
  • Stacks Image 525310
    Andrew G Reece and Christopher M Danforth. Instagram photos reveal predictive markers of depression. EPJ Data Science 2017. [Journal Page].


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Laurent Hébert-Dufresne - Assistant Professor, Computer Science

Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.

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    Laurent Hébert‐Dufresne Adam F. A. Pellegrini Uttam Bhat Sidney Redner Stephen W. Pacala Andrew M. Berdahl. Edge fires drive the shape and stability of tropical forests. Ecology Letters 2018. [Journal Page]
  • Stacks Image 525335
    Samuel V. Scarpino, Antoine Allard, Laurent Hébert-Dufresne. The effect of a prudent adaptive behaviour on disease transmission. Nature Physics 2016. [Journal Page]
  • Stacks Image 525339
    Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, Joshua A. Grochow, Antoine Allard. Multi-scale structure and topological anomaly detection via a new network statistic: The onion decomposition. Nature Scientific Reports 2016. [Journal Page]


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Paul Hines - School of Engineering, Associate Professor

Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.

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    Paul D. H. Hines, Ian Dobson, Pooya Rezaei. Cascading Power Outages Propagate Locally in an Influence Graph That is Not the Actual Grid Topology. IEEE Transactions on Power Systems ( Volume: 32, Issue: 2, March 2017 ). [Journal Page]
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    Mert Korkali, Jason G. Veneman, Brian F. Tivnan, James P. Bagrow & Paul D. H. Hines. Reducing Cascading Failure Risk by Increasing Infrastructure Network Interdependence. Scientific Reports volume 7, Article number: 44499 (2017. [Journal Page]
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    Pooya Rezaei, Paul D. H. Hines, Margaret J. Eppstein. Estimating Cascading Failure Risk With Random Chemistry. IEEE Transactions on Power Systems ( Volume: 30, Issue: 5, Sept. 2015 ). [Journal Page]


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James Bagrow - Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).

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    Y.-Y. Ahn, J. P. Bagrow and S. Lehmann. Link communities reveal multiscale complexity in networks. Nature, 466: 761-764 (2010). [Journal Page].
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    M. R. Frank, J. R. Williams, L. Mitchell, J. P. Bagrow, P. S. Dodds, C. M. Danforth. Constructing a taxonomy of fine-grained human movement and activity motifs through social media. In preparation. (2015). [Journal Page].
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    J. P. Bagrow and L. Mitchell. The quoter model: a paradigmatic model of the social flow of written information. To appear, Chaos (2018). [Journal Page].