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Title: Qualitative models in ecology and their use in learning environments
Author: Salles, Paulo Sergio Bretas de Almeida
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1997
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This thesis is concerned with the development of qualitative modelling approaches that can be used in educational contexts for simulation and explanation about ecological systems. Students have to learn about complex systems, and computers have great potential for providing tools to support ecology teaching. Most of the simulation models created so far for this purpose are based on mathematical equations. However, quantitative data is often missing. Moreover, mathematical models hardly can support explanations because they lack explicit representation of concepts about the system being modelled and of the causal relations between the modelling components. Qualitative Reasoning has the potential for handling these problems, as it provides ontologies and techniques for building models with qualitative and incomplete knowledge. Accordingly, different modelling formalisms are explored and compared in this thesis. The specific domain chosen is the ecology of the effect of fire on the vegetation of the Brazilian cerrado. Recurrent issues in scientific research and teaching are the effects of fire on flowering, germination, establishment, mortality of the cerrado plants, and on the succession of cerrado communities. The qualitative knowledge involved in these issues is represented in a domain theory of plant population dynamics. To implement this domain theory, a framework is proposed in which the structure of the system being modelled is represented as a combination of the conceptual, the causal and the mathematical components. The conceptual structure includes knowledge about the objects, their quantities, quantity relations, typical scenarios, and the mechanisms causing changes in the system. The causal structure is a representation of how changes start and propagate within the system. The mathematical structure is a description of the constraints between the quantities and the procedures for calculating their values.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available