# Environmental Science

## Kac goes to work: Stochastic processes as probes of the architecture of plant root systems

The past decade has seen a rapid development of data-driven plant breeding strategies based on the two significant technological developments. First, the use of high throughput DNA sequencing technology to identify millions of genetic markers on that characterize the available genetic diversity captured by the thousands of available accessions in each major crop species. Second, the development of high throughput imaging platforms for estimating quantitative traits associated with easily accessible above-ground structures such as shoots, leaves and flowers. These data-driven breeding strategies are widely viewed as the basis for rapid development of crops capable of providing stable yields in the face of global climate change. Roots and other below-ground structures are much more difficult to study yet play essential roles in adaptation to climate change including as uptake of water and nutrients. Estimation of quantitative traits from images remains a significant technical and scientific bottleneck for both above and below-ground structures. The focus of this talk, inspired by the analytical results of Kac, van den Berg and many others in the area of spectral geometry, is to describe a computational and statistical methodology that employs stochastic processes as quantitative measurement tools suitable for characterizing images of multi-scale dendritic structures such as plant root systems. The substrate for statistical analyses in Wasserstein space are hitting distributions obtained by simulation. The practical utility of this approach is demonstrated using 2D images of sorghum roots of different genetic backgrounds and grown in different environments.

## Models for the Spread of Cholera

There have been several recent outbreaks of cholera (for example, in Haiti and Yemen), which is a bacterial disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It can be transmitted to humans directly by person-to-person contact or indirectly via contaminated water. Random mixing cholera models from the literature are first formulated and briefly analyzed. Heterogeneities in person-to-person contact are introduced, by means of a multigroup model, and then by means of a contact network model. Utilizing an interplay of analysis and linear algebra, various control strategies for cholera are suggested by these models.

Pauline van den Driessche is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Victoria. Her research focuses on aspects of stability in biological models and matrix analysis. Current research projects include disease transmission models that are appropriate for influenza, cholera and Zika. Most models include control strategies (e.g., vaccination for influenza) and aim to address questions relevant for public health. Sign pattern matrices occur in these models, and the possible inertias of such patterns is a current interest.

## The long road to 0.075: a statistician’s perspective of the process for setting ozone standards

The presentation will take us along the road to the ozone standard for the United States, announced in Mar 2008 by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and then the new proposal in 2014. That agency is responsible for monitoring that nation’s air quality standards under the Clean Air Act of 1970. I will describe how I, a Canadian statistician, came to serve on the US Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) for Ozone that recommended the standard and my perspectives on the process of developing it. I will introduce the rich cast of players involved including the Committee, the EPA staff, “blackhats,” “whitehats,” “gunslingers,” politicians and an unrevealed character waiting in the wings who appeared onstage only as the 2008 standards had been formulated. And we will encounter a couple of tricky statistical problems that arose along with approaches, developed by the speaker and his coresearchers, which could be used to address them. The first was about how a computational model based on things like meteorology could be combined with statistical models to infer a certain unmeasurable but hugely important ozone level, the “policy related background level” generated by things like lightning, below which the ozone standard could not go. The second was about estimating the actual human exposure to ozone that may differ considerably from measurements taken at fixed site monitoring locations. Above all, the talk will be a narrative about the interaction between science and public policy - in an environment that harbors a lot of stakeholders with varying but legitimate perspectives, a lot of uncertainty in spite of the great body of knowledge about ozone and above all, a lot of potential risk to human health and welfare.

## Conference on the Mathematics of Sea Ice

Interesting mathematics arises in many areas of the study of sea ice and its role in climate. Partial differential equations, numerical analysis, dynamical systems and bifurcation theory, diffusion processes, percolation theory, homogenization and statistical physics represent a broad range of active fields in applied mathematics and theoretical physics which are relevant to important issues in climate science and the analysis of sea ice in particular.

## The Mathematics of Bats

2010 Fields Medal recipient, Cédric Villani, Director of the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris, France, will give a Friday evening talk entitled The Mathematics of Bats.

- Read more about The Mathematics of Bats
- 4863 reads

## Oceans and Multiplicative Ergodic Theorems

In many physical processes, one is interested in mixing and obstructions to mixing: warm air currents mixing with cold air; pollutant dispersal etc. Analogous questions arise in pure mathematics in dynamical systems and Markov chains. In this talk, I will describe the relationship between obstructions to mixing and eigenvectors of transition operators; in particular I will focus on recent work on the non-stationary case: when the Markov chain or dynamical system is non-homogeneous, or when the physical process is driven by external factors.

I will illustrate my talk with analysis of and data from ocean mixing.

## Mathematics and the Planet Earth: a Long Life Together II

When Colombus left Spain in 1492, sailing West, he knew that the Earth was round and was expecting to land in Japan. Seventeen centuries earlier, around 200 BC, Eratosthenes had shown that its circumference was 40,000 km, just by a smart use of mathematics, without leaving his home town of Alexandria. Since then, we have learned much more about Earth: it is a planet, it has an inner structure, it carries life , and at every step mathematics have been a crucial tool of discovery and understanding. Nowadays, concerns about the human footprint and climate change force us to bring all this knowledge to bear on the global problems facing us. This is the last challenge for mathematics: can we control change?

This is a two-part lecture, investigating how our idea of the world has influenced the development of mathematics. In the first lecture on July 15, I will describe the situation up to the twentieth century, in the second one on July 17 I will follow up to the present time and the global challenges humanity and the planet are facing today.

## Mathematics and the Planet Earth: a Long Life Together I

When Colombus left Spain in 1492, sailing West, he knew that the Earth was round and was expecting to land in Japan. Seventeen centuries earlier, around 200 BC, Eratosthenes had shown that its circumference was 40,000 km, just by a smart use of mathematics, without leaving his home town of Alexandria. Since then, we have learned much more about Earth: it is a planet, it has an inner structure, it carries life , and at every step mathematics have been a crucial tool of discovery and understanding. Nowadays, concerns about the human footprint and climate change force us to bring all this knowledge to bear on the global problems facing us. This is the last challenge for mathematics: can we control change?

This is a two-part lecture, investigating how our idea of the world has influenced the development of mathematics. In the first lecture (July 15), I will describe the situation up to the twentieth century, in the second one (July 17) I will follow up to the present time and the global challenges humanity and the planet are facing today.

## Brains and Frogs: Structured Population Models

In diverse contexts, populations of cells and animals disperse and invade a spatial region over time. Frequently, the individuals that make up the population undergo a transition from a motile to an immotile state. A steady-state spatial distribution evolves as all the individuals settle. Moreover, there may be multiple releases of motile subpopulation. If so, the interactions between motile and immotile subpopulations may affect the final spatial distribution of the various releases. The development of the brain cortex and the translocation of threatened Maud Island frog are two applications we have considered.

## Patterns of Social Foraging

I will present recent results from my group that pertain to spatio-temporal patterns formed by social foragers. Starting from work on chemotaxis by Lee A. Segel (who was my PhD thesis supervisor), I will discuss why simple taxis of foragers and randomly moving prey cannot lead to spontaneous emergence of patchiness. I will then show how a population of foragers with two types of behaviours can do so. I will discuss conditions under which one or another of these behaviours leads to a winning strategy in the sense of greatest food intake. This problem was motivated by social foraging in eiderducks overwintering in the Belcher Islands, studied by Joel Heath. The project is joint with post-doctoral fellows, Nessy Tania, Ben Vanderlei, and Joel Heath.

- Read more about Patterns of Social Foraging
- 3806 reads