New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

Examining the Scaling Relationship Between City Size and Food Ecology

Team: 3

School: AIMS@UNM

Area of Science: Human Ecology


Interim: Problem Definition:
     In two analyses of human ecology in cities, titled "Invention in the city: Increasing returns to patenting as a scaling function on metropolitan size" (2006) and "Growth, innovation, scaling, and the pace of life in cities," (2007) the author, Luis M.A. Bettencourt, discusses the effect of a city's size on its ecology. Bettencourt first found that larger cities are much more likely to house innovators and inventors, and showed a super-linear relationship between city size and the amount of inventors. Bettencourt then relates patterns of wealth, behavior, and infrastructure to city growth in the same superlinear manner, and postulates that this may promote "urbanism as a way of life." In essence, Bettencourt shows that larger cities have disproportionately more invention and wealth.

     In these papers, however, the scaling relationship of food needs in city ecology is not mentioned. Given that other population-related qualities of the city follow a relationship of increasing returns, our team was curious about whether the food ecology of a city would be affected by the city's size in the same manner. This is especially important when discussing food production, gathering, and import into a metropolitan area. The goal of this project is to create a model that can accurately describe the scaling relationship between the two.

Problem Solution:
     The simulation will make clear the relationship between a city's size and the impact on its food ecology. We plan on creating the city with initial populations of increasing magnitude. Agents emerging from the city will seek out snd return with food from the land surrounding the city. The energetic cost of collecting and importing the goods will be measured against how many kilocalories the agent has returned with, and charted on real-time graphs. By examining how the city expands its food collection efforts, we should be able to examine the relationship between food ecology and city size.

Progress to Date:
     We have partnered with a team of ecologists and computer scientists at UNM. They are assisting us in developing the program, which is being written in NetLogo. Using their previous ecological models as guidelines and reference points, we are working on creating agents who follow an optimized search algorithm before returning to the city.

Expected Results:
     After development is finished, the agents should be able to wander a distance from the city, and return after finding food. The area where they gathered the food from should degrade, and eventually replenish. The population within the city should suffer if their caloric intake is regularly not being met. The agents should have differing means of transport, and these means' ecology, specifically measured in energy spent per units of distances traveled per kilogram, should be analyzed.


Team Members:

  Roderick Van Why
  Nicolas Ponder
  Israel Montoya
  Walid Hasan
  Ronald Rosa

Sponsoring Teacher: Andrew Hostetler

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