Computer Science in Science PD: Agent Based Modeling of Complex Adaptive Systems - Discussion


That CAS that I was interested in for Agent Based Modeling was the removal of the wolf from Yellowstone National Park. I had the privilege of being in Yellowstone the year the wolf was reintroduced to the park. The removal of the top predator from the ecosystem caused traumatic effects on the other populations of the park. The first agent would be the wolf, the second agent I would focus on would be elk. The environment would be park. As the top predator was removed, over grazing, new growth loss and sick/elderly elk remained in the ecosystem.


Yes. It does take more than one generation to complete the trip. New agents and interactions constantly.


As shown in the video, I too would use agent-based modeling to demonstrate the complex adaptive system of predator-prey relationships.

  • Who/what are the agents? The agents for this demonstration would be coyotes as the predators and rabbits as the prey.

  • What is the environment? A suitable environment for this simulation would be a grassy field.

  • What are the interactions between agents and/or between agents and the environment? The rabbits feed on the grass; the coyotes feed on the rabbits.


My CAS was thinking about gas laws and behavior of gases. Specifically I was thinking about gases in a closed system.

•Who/what are the agents? The agents would be various types of gas particles.

•What is the environment? The environment is a closed system such as a railroad car tanker.

•What are the interactions between agents and/or between agents and the environment? The interactions between the agents and the environment would be that as the temperature increases, the particle speed increases. This also increases the pressure inside the tanker. Over time the tanker collapses (decreasing the volume of the system) because of the high temperature and pressure.


Hi mcicchinelli,

This is a good idea. I wonder if you might be able to find a local connection in your area (nearby your school) in regards to the water cycle. I think if students had more of a contextualized phenomenon it would help to enhance the learning.


The agents for the adaptive system in a garden would be the plants. The environmental factors would be the sunlight and soil. The agents would interact with each other as they grew.


The complex adaptive system that I chose is the Mexican Bats population.

Agents: bat population / insect population

Environment: Night time sky outside a Mexican Bat Cave

Interactions: Bat flight patterns, predatory/prey relationship of bats/ insects


I would use ocean current patterns, tides, and water movement to predict where peoples trash where end up depending on where they dump it.

  1. The agents would pieces of pollution completely subjected to the movement of water around them and hitting other pieces of trash…

  2. The environment would be the currents the pollution was moving through and water density.

  3. Depending on the pieces of trash their size and the amount of trash and maybe density in a location you could simulate the trash colliding with other trash and it of course would interact with water they are in.


Not being a science teacher, myself, I most like Wilfredo Rodriguez’s idea of the school environment. The students, staff, and parents would be the agents. The interactions would be between students and staff, and staff and parents.


I would like to utilize agent based modeling to help students understand how manipulating a chemical reaction can produce different results. The agents would be the amount of reactants, surface area of reactants, temperature of the reaction, etc. I think this would help students to understand how variations of the reactants can greatly affect the results of the reaction.


I had a similar idea to this. My focus would be on the amount of reactants and how it affects the rate of reaction. I like the idea.


My original CAS idea was the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Taking this a step further to Agent Based Modeling, you could model invasive species and how they impact indigenous populations. The blue catfish could be one agent. The fish feeds mainly on shad, menhaden, blue crab and river herring and has few natural predators that can prevent it from out-competing native species. You could model this relationship in the watershed, to discover which regions or species in particular might benefit from conservation practices or policies.


The agents are the ones involved in the experiment such as the rabbits or lions, while the environment is its surroundings like the grasslands. The interactions between agents and its environment could be like the interactions of how the growth of population of the rabbits is dependent on the amount of its predators, the lions and its grasslands.


My topic for Complex Adaptive Systems was evolution. So, the first question is who/ what are the agents?
I believe the agents would be elements in Earth’s atmosphere and the chemical reactions that first occurred.
The earth and earth’s atmosphere is the environment. Over time, chemical reactions occurred, and the environment changed as a result. Carbon dioxide was slowly replaced by oxygen through the cyanobacteria that formed in the oceans. As living organisms were created and new chemical reactions produced new products, the environment changed. Agents change environments.


The immune system is a complex adaptive system. The way the immune system will change in accordance with foreign intruders shows it’s complexity and adaptiveness. The environment is internal and the interaction between foreign agents are aggressive in order to protect the whole body.


The complex adaptive system I have in mind is highway traffic. The agents would be the vehicles (cars, semi-trucks, motorcycles, etc.) The environment would be the highway system including the number of lanes, exits and entrance to the highway. The interactions between agents would be defining rules to how vehicles move without colliding into each other. Different rules of behavior applies to different types of vehicle. For example, semi-trucks tend to stay in the middle lane while motorcycle tends to zigzag in and out of traffic. We can also explore the interactions between agents and environment. Can traffic lights at the highway entrance help improve by slowing vehicles from entering. Or if we change the environment from 3 lanes to 4 lanes, will traffic improve. We can also determine which sections of the highway requires the lane increase if we provide traffic information during rush hours in the city and outlying suburb areas.


The CAS that I identified in my previous post was the evolution of a species by natural selection. I have selected frogs (any species for now) as my study group. The agents in this simulation would be frogs, snakes, fish, and insects. A pond with aquatic plants, algae, turbidity, rocks and sediment on the bottom, and the terrestrial plants and abiotic factors around the pond will constitute the environment. The interactions between agents are the predator/prey relationships between the frogs and insects, the frogs and snakes, and the frogs and fish. Another interaction between agents is the competition between frogs that have traits that make them a better fit for the environment and the less fit ones. The interactions between the agents and the environment are how well the frogs are camouflaged in the water and on land. Environmental factors can be changed, and the frogs will have genetic variations as well as have random mutations. Students would have a visual for how species change over time due to genetic and environmental influences.


Unfortunately, this type of simulation is still needed–although oil spills are infrequent, they have long lasting consequences. Have you thought of human response as a factor? Studying the overall effects is a great idea, but an extension/enrichment could be to investigate the best containment/remediation methods. I remember reading something about a student investigating a floating boom method for containing oil spills for a science fair project, and that is (or at the time was) the system most widely used after a spill. It’s exciting to imagine that a new technology that changes an industry could be conceived by a student after creating a project in one of our classes!


Great example! And what a useful model for considering things like how medicines, viruses, vaccines, or even vitamins could impact the function of the immune system.


I chose climate change. In the C-ROADS model people are one of the agents as they are in charge of the processes that emit CO2. But you could just start with the CO2 as an agent, interacting with other agents - deforestation, afforestation, ocean acidification, and temperature. The environment is the ocean, land and atmosphere. The interactions vary - more forests planted = more carbon sequestration, more = CO2 = more acidic oceans, higher temperatures…You can model people’s choices - cut back on CO2 and see what happens to the temperature - and you can see the long term effects as well.