Purdue University Graduate School
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Understanding the disturbance of human recreation on wildlife using multiple dynamic agents within an IBM framework

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posted on 2021-10-14, 17:52 authored by Soraida GarciaSoraida Garcia

As the need for outdoor recreation grows, the profound impact of recreational activities upon wildlife is a major concern. For example, the presence of humans may increase risk-averse behavior by wildlife, restricting access to essential resources, and reducing foraging, thereby negatively impacting breeding. Ultimately, the impacts that recreationists have on wildlife include directly or indirectly altering population structure and community composition. Unfortunately, understanding the impacts of recreating humans upon wildlife is a complex challenge that is dependent upon wildlife species and human activity types. Our understanding of human-wildlife relationships can be improved by combining results from empirical studies with simulation models to extrapolate mechanisms to a broader range of circumstances and investigate their implications. Accordingly, we developed an ABM modeling framework, that enables both dynamic virtual human and wildlife agents to change their actions. These changes are based upon their state as a consequence of their interactions with their environment and other virtual agents. A unique aspect of the framework we developed is the explicit simulation of both wildlife and human agent behavior as emergent rather than imposed. We use this framework to model the disturbance of birds, in the Lawrence Creek Forest Unit (LCFU) of Fort Harrison State Park, IN, by human recreation. We parameterize the model with human recreation data collected through an intercept survey of recreationists at the park and bird data from published studies. We compare our modeling framework to a more traditional model type where human behavior is imposed while wildlife behavior is emergent. Our results indicate that the frequency of humans entering the park influences the rates of disturbance of birds more than model types. Examining simulation behavior within our new framework, the utility and off-trail options had the most influence across all scenarios. These comparisons illustrate that the use of a modeling framework that allows managers to explore factors altering wildlife disturbance rates. Despite the marginal influence of model type upon our results, our research elucidates the value of a model that allows emergent behavior for multiple agent types. The emergent human and wildlife responses of simulated interacting agents provides new insight when managing these relationships.


Andrew Mellon grant, Teaching Assistant in Languages


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Pat Zollner

Additional Committee Member 2

John B. Dunning

Additional Committee Member 3

Shadi Atallah

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