New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

Modeling Tree Growth and Resource Use with Applications

Team: 58

School: La Cueva High

Area of Science: Botany

Interim: Problem Definition: A working simulation of tree growth in response to environmental factors can be useful in understanding and solving many environmental problems such as maximizing carbon dioxide uptake as well as optimizing land and resource use and consumption.

Problem Solution: We plan to use a Java Processing program to create a realistic visual simulation of tree growth in both 2D and 3D that is based on input parameters of light and water. The simulation begins with only one segment, or small clump of cells, called a root segment. Based on the amount of light available to this segment, it will branch and grow into new segments. Leaves are the youngest segments of any given branch on the tree. When a branch loses all of its leaves, meaning it has stopped growing due to the lack of light, the branch dies. After a certain period of time, the tree stops growing. Once a sufficiently biologically accurate model of an individual tree is produced, we hope to change input factors to learn about how the growth of the tree is affected, as well as other output factors. Ideally, we plan to extend the model into multiple trees to model competition between organisms for light and resources, which will help to solve problems such as the optimization of land and resources.

Progress to Date: Thus far, we have extensively researched the topic of tree growth and began a model of growth in both 2D and 3D. To further gain an understanding of the factors that influence tree growth, we have communicated with a biology professor and a postdoc who have enlightened us with ideas for the project as well as general rules for plant allometry. These rules include the equation for growth based on available energy and constant values, as well as rules for the mass or surface area of the canopy of a tree. Our current model in two dimensions displays a growing and branching tree that visually resembles a tree. In addition, light propagation is presented with shades of grey to show the amount of light in each cell of the VoxelGrid in which the tree is found. The growth of a branch is directly proportional to the amount of light available at the end of the branch (where leaves are found). The three dimensional model also displays a resemblance of a tree, but does not yet grow in response to light propagation (branching and growth are based on randomly generated values). Nice!

Expected Results: We plan to take the project as far as possible. There are many complex factors that play a role in tree growth, and we would like to tackle as many of them as possible in the allotted time that we have. As explained, we will extend our project into practical applications once an acceptable model of tree growth is achieved.

Acknowledgements: The team would like to thank Jason DeWitte for his advice and support on the project. In addition, we would like to thank Professor David Hanson at the University of New Mexico for providing advice on the topic, pointing us to helpful book, and connecting us with a postdoc who also works in tree modeling to mentor us. We would like to thank this postdoc, Sean Hammond, for working with us and showing us his progress on a similar problem.

Team Members: Eli Echt-Wilson and Albert Zuo

Sponsoring Teacher: Jason DeWitte

-Niklas, Karl J. Evolutionary Walks through a Land Plant Morphospace. Tech. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999. Print.

-Campbell, Gaylon S., and John M. Norman. An Introduction to Environmental Biophysics. 2nd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998. Print.

Team Members:

  Eli Echt-Wilson
  Albert Zuo

Sponsoring Teacher: Jason DeWitte

Mail the entire Team

For questions about the Supercomputing Challenge, a 501(c)3 organization, contact us at: consult1314 @

New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge, Inc.
Post Office Box 30102
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87190
(505) 667-2864

Supercomputing Challenge Board of Directors
Board page listing meetings and agendas
If you have volunteered for the Challenge, please fill out our In Kind form.