Arika Ligmann-ZielinskaWritten by Andy McGlashen, Environmental Science and Policy Program

Ligmann-Zielinska, originally from Poland, came to MSU in fall 2008 from sunny California, where she is a joint doctoral program student in Geography at San Diego State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. At MSU, she will research human-environment relationships using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) modeling, with a particular focus on the consequences of human land-use.

She plans to teach three courses each year in GIS and spatial modeling, which assess dynamic landscapes (looking at water, elevation, vegetation, etc.). Her research will use GIS modeling to understand how human decisions affect aspects of the environment, such as land cover change. "I am eager to collaborate with other researchers, especially within ESPP," she says.

Ligmann-Zelinska is currently researching whether and how compact urban development can be achieved instead of the low-density sprawl that is occurring. She is looking at alternative arrangements of land that will ameliorate the negative effects of current growth in suburban areas. So far, she has built and tested two land-use models: one spatial agent-based model, which is a computer program that assesses a landscape based on an individual’s preferences; and a mathematical model.

One of her immediate goals is to develop a participatory experiment using an Internet-based gaming simulation tool, available to the general public. Participants would fill out surveys about their values and preferences, related to how they want to use a piece of land (e.g. the type of place they want to live). Based on their responses a computer-based agent would be created and make decisions, with ongoing involvement from participants. An agent can also look at a landscape in an ecological sense, to estimate how suitable or unsuitable an area is for a certain plant or animal. In the long-term she hopes for the model to be utilized in some real world setting. The result would reveal new land use patterns.

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