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Spatial Simulation

Everything is related to everything else... This core principle of spatial analysis is equally true for the temporal domain: history matters! Together, the two dimensions of space and time build the spatio-temporal context of our environment. Whereas GIS has focussed primarily on the spatial perspective, there is a clear trend towards the incorporation of time. Dynamic models on the other side have for a long time ignored space. Only since a few decades a new theory of “complex systems” explicitly includes spatial heterogeneity. Therefore, spatial simulation models are fundamentally new tools to study systems from a truly spatio-temporal perspective.
Topics that have been successfully addressed with spatial simulation models include biological applications (e.g. predator-prey models, habitat models, emergence of territories), geomorphological applications (e.g. hydrological models and fluvial erosion), heuristic algorithms (e.g. ant algorithm to solve shortest-path problems) and transport models.

Learning Objectives

The module will provide a broad overview on existing theories and methods in the domain of spatio-temporal models. The focus is given to hands-on experience with adapting, designing and coding agent-based simulation models. Upon successful completion of this module, you will be equipped with the competences to design, implement, analyse and valdiate your own models to solve applied problems and conduct research with simulation models.


Ass.Prof.Dr. Gudrun Wallentin
Universität Salzburg
Interfakultärer Fachbereich Geoinformatik
Hellbrunnerstr. 34 A-5020 Salzburg
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Gudrun Wallentin has her main research focus on spatial simulation modelling, including but not limited to the ecological domain. Gudrun graduated from the University of Innsbruck with a diploma in Ecology. After working several years as the executive director of the Nature Park 'Zillertaler Alpen' in Austria, she continued her academic studies at the University of Edinburgh, from where she holds a MSc in GIS. In her PhD at the GIScience Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Salzburg, she applied methods of GIScience and spatial simulation modelling to the domain of ecology. Since 2011 she works at the Department of Geoinformatics – Z_GIS at the University of Salzburg, where she leads the UNIGIS MSc team.

Software and Literature

The software that will be used for model development is GAMA. GAMA is an open source programming framework that was specifically developed for the design and the implementation of spatially explicit simulation models. The particular strongpoint of GAMA is its great capability in simulating spatial data. It makes use of geospatial open source libraries for handling, analysing and visualising spatial data. The platform further supports typical modelling tasks like loading data, conducting simulation experiments, and visualising results.
Models in GAMA are developed with the programming language GAML. This is a domain-specific language (DSL), which is targeted at domain experts that do not necessarily have any background in computer science. During the course of this module, you will - step by step - learn how to code with GAML. Thus, for taking this module, you need to have interest in application development, but it is no prerequisite to have prior experience with programming.

Assessment and Grading

Instructor assessment reflects student’s achievements in this module and is conducted through assessing module assignments. Assignments (English language!) must be submitted in written format (.PDF) within the required time period. Exercises are designed to enforce students’ knowledge and skills. These should be completed to allow students to assess their own progress and are not included in the module assessment.

Basic Information

Start: 3 x per year
Duration: 3 months
Language: English
Credits: 6 ECTS
Registration Deadline: two weeks before start

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