Office of Public Affairs
Nov. 8, 2000
OSWEGO STATE COMPUTER SCIENCE MAJORS
AID CORNELL ECOLOGISTS UNDER EPA GRANT
OSWEGO -- Several Oswego State computer science majors are helping to create what may become a new standard in ecological modeling. They are working with Dr. Elaine Wenderholm, assistant professor of computer science, on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded project.
The Oswego team is a subcontractor to Cornell University's Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research on the three-year, $900,000 project. Oswego State will receive $419,477 from EPA's Science to Achieve Results, or STAR, program for its share of the work, according to Oswego's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
Wenderholm said the funds will go toward salaries and equipment, including a new four-processor Sun Microsystems computer.
"The neat thing is we have students working on it," she said. "I wouldn't have committed to this if we didn't have a fantastic group of students."
The grant supports up to three student workers at a time. This semester they are Kennedy Roberts, Anthony Vito and Tim Martin. Edward Jones is also working on the project for independent study credit.
"It's all programming on our side," Wenderholm said. "We are providing a framework in Java to allow ecologists to model spatial ecosystems," including the air, the earth's surface and beneath the surface.
"It will allow ecologists around the world to share models over the Web," she added.
Members of the Plant Modeling Group at Cornell's Boyce Thompson Institute approached Wenderholm to work on the project because they knew of her doctoral work in the field at Syracuse University. "They're assuming that this will be a new standard way of modeling," she said.
Work began in the summer. "So far we've put together the graphical user interface," she said. "Now we're working on automatically generating the code for the model -- our 'model wizard.'"
When finished, she said, the framework being created at Oswego will facilitate ecosystem modeling and minimize the amount of computer code that ecologists need to write.
"It makes it very easy for them to build models and to share them," she said. "They don't have to learn how to become parallel programmers."
The principal investigator on the project as a whole is Dr. David Weinstein, who leads a group at the Boyce Thompson Institute that models plant and ecosystem response to pollutants and other environmental stresses.
Wenderholm said she is enthused about the work's potential for good. "I'm really glad to do this because maybe we can save some trees," she said.
Wenderholm joined Oswego's computer science faculty in 1998 after completing her doctorate at Syracuse University. She holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Oswego and worked in clinical chemistry before moving into computer science.
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CONTACT: Dr. Elaine Wenderholm, 341-2347
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