:Roelof Boumans

Course Syllabus


:Introduction to Simulation Modeling


3 Credits - 1 credit = 15 contact hours

Meeting dates and times


Spring 2011 online



Course Rationale:

The purpose of this course is to familiarize participants with dynamic systems modeling with applications to both ecological and economic systems over a number of spatial and temporal scales using the MIMES modeling system as an example.

Catalog Description:

Establishes a foundation in systems thinking and provides students with the skills to model complex systems using computer based simulation modeling software.

Course Description:

Simulation Modeling is a discipline for developing a level of understanding of the interaction of the parts of a system, and of the system as a whole. A system is an entity that maintains its existence through the interaction of its parts, where a systems model is a simplified representation. Building systems models is a tool for deepening the understanding of the dynamics of a system. Simulations refer to computerized versions of the models that are run over time to display the implications of the defined interactions. Simulations are iterative in their development. Models are conceptualized, coded and executed. Lessons learned from the simulation will lead to revisions of the model concepts and code until an adequate level of understanding is developed. To accomplish this task, Students will be instructed in applying a modeling software package.


RSNR 285: Introduction to Ecological Economics or instructor permission.


Systems Thinking

Valuation Techniques

Use of Simulation Modeling Computer Software

Code Writing/Applying Mathematical Expressions

Learning Outcomes:

The learner will:

Contribute to the knowledge base of Ecological Economics using dynamic modeling principles in a problem-based learning approach.

Systematize the interactions of the Earth’s processes including the anthroposphere (the human dimension), the biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere.

Percentage Contribution of Each Assignment:

Participation 25%


Final Project



NR385D Spring 2011 Syllabus

Academic Honesty & Professionalism:

All students are required to be familiar with and adhere to the “Academic Honesty Policy Procedures” delineated in the most recent edition of “The Cat’s Tale”. (



Accommodations will be provided to eligible students with disabilities. Please obtain an accommodation letter from the ACCESS office and see one of the instructors early in the course to discuss what accommodations will be necessary. If you are unfamiliar with ACCESS, visit their website at

to learn more about the services they provide. ACESS: A-170 Living Learning Center, University of Vermont,

Burlington, VT 05405. PH: 802-656-7753, TTY: call 711 (relay), Fax: 802-656-0739, Email:

[email protected]

, Instant Messenger: UVMaccess. General office hours: 8:30am

– 4:30pm Monday through

Friday. Call to make an appointment.

Course Policies/Expectations:

In this course students will learn how to create dynamic systems models, in particular those with applications to both ecological and economic systems. We will use icon-based modeling software packages that are very easy to learn and use, and require no previous math or modeling experience. All software will be available for both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems at no cost.

The course uses a "problem based learning" format in which participants define their own modeling problem and then solve it over the course of the class. The first three weeks will cover introduction to systems modeling concepts and the associated software packages used. There will be several worked out examples to study and participants will read and report on models in the current literature. Weeks 4 to 6, participants will be asked to define, build, calibrate and run their own models. Instructor support will be devoted to answering questions about the ongoing modeling projects, sharing progress, and constructive feedback. Participants will be expected to produce a "publishable" project 6 weeks after the end of the course.

Success in this course depends upon your getting the assignments done in a timely matter. Simulation modeling requires lots of practice and the assignments are designed to provide this practice. If you have any questions at any time, please don't hesitate to contact the instructor. Projects will be assigned within the modules. As this is not a self-paced course, these assignments will have due dates, and it is the student’s responsibility to see that they are completed on time. (Estimated time you need for completing the assignments is 10 to 15 hours per week).

Students are required to have functioning computers (Windows, Mac or linux platform) and the necessary software loaded and operational before the beginning of the class (Browser, access to UVM blackboard and the trial version of Simile, that can be downloaded for free from the following website

Attendance Expectations:

It is imperative that you log onto the course multiple times a week to keep up with the workload, communicate with your peers, and submit assignments.

Contributions in Class:

Students are encouraged to work together due to the importance of idea exchange and multiple world views in modeling. Representations of different perspectives within the same modeling framework are highly valued in the field and you will be assessed on your ability to effectively synthesize material.

NR385D Spring 2011 Syllabus

There is the opportunity to start and follow up discussions through the discussion board. This is an important part of the course and counts towards the participation item in the Grading Criteria section of the course.

Required and/or recommended readings:

The class policy is to avoid for students to have to buy textbooks. We have searched the web for reading materials and included the links in the modules. In addition we have compiled a list of text books for further study under “Reference Materials”.

Electronic Submissions/Internet Use:

All assignments will be submitted to the instructor through the associated assignment feature, quiz feature, or posted in the wiki or discussion board. Please use this interactive demo to learn how to properly label and submit your files to me.

Additional Resources


Paper Style and Formatting: Please follow the style guidelines set forth by

Ecological Modeling

found at this



Student Evaluation/Assessment


Modeling counts for more than writing since this is a modeling class not writing class.

Description of Class Assignments:

Participation (25%)

Wiki Participation

Discussion board

Assignments (25%)

Assignments per Module as outlined on the Blackboard Site and in the Syllabus.

Modeling Project (50%)

Project conceptualization

Model Coding

Model Outputs

Model description

Scoring Rubrics:

Scoring rubrics for the project and discussion portions of this course are available in the Grading Criteria section.

NR385D Spring 2011 Syllabus

Instructional Sequence:



(Jan 18 - 21)


– 3

(Jan 24- Feb 4)


(Feb 7

– 11)


– 7

(Feb 14- Mar 4)

8 -9

(Mar 7- 18)

10 - 13+

(Mar 21- Apr 15)


Module 1:

Systems Thinking

Module 2:

Using the SIMILE

Modeling Software

Module 3

Back ground on the

MIMES project and Valuation

Module 4:

How to navigate/explore the MIMES sub models

Module 5

: Model Project



Systems Thinking Readings

Systems Wiki

Quiz on Readings

SIMILE Guided Tour

Download SIMILE

Create Bank Account Model

SIMILE Tutorials Model check

Find Problems in Models

Example paper (define, conceptualize, and model)

Exercises: a) Quiz: (define declarative modeling) b) Do a simile tutorial (the forest growth) c) Find the problem in a model

Valuation Techniques/Reading (deGroot et al)

MIMES slide shows

Regional vs global models

What is the vision/organization?

Where to find data (links)

Exercises: a) Arrange for .SVN access b) FindOpenRunModel.pdf c) Look at previous student models for ideas and project expectations

Working within the submodels/data

Understanding equations

How to work with datasets (GIS, excel, jmp, .csv)

Exercises: a) ReadSoils (how to load a map) b) Populate the world model for one country

Exercises: a) Pick a subject area from the MIMES ecosystem service list. b) one page of proposal why you want to do this one to include a list of references with bearing on your subject.

Module 6

: Creating and Original


There will be individual office hours/Skype chats to debug any model problems during this period.

Reading on Syntax, Equations and data entry

Movie of me entering equations.

Exercises: a) Draw a conceptual diagram of the model b) Put in equations to make your model run.

Document equations c) Model Verification and Data Collection

NR385D Spring 2011 Syllabus


(Apr 18

– 22)


(April 25 - May 4th)

Module 7

: Calibration and


Module 8

: Communication &

Description of Your Model

Slide show on Calibration and verification

Outline paper in Wiki

Methodology for paper

“What if” scenarios

Model discussion

Post model and documentation on the MIMES

Sourceforge page

Powerpoint presentation on your model due

Week 16


NR385D Spring 2011 Syllabus