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An online course "Simulation Modeling in Botanical Epidemiology and Crop Loss Analysis" in The Plant Health Instructor on the APSnet Education Center
S. Savary (1), K. Bowen (2), K. L. Stevenson (3), L. WILLOCQUET (1). (1) INRA, Castanet Tolosan Cedex, France; (2) Auburn Univ., Auburn, AL, U.S.A.; (3) Univ. Georgia, Tifton, GA, U.S.A.

This course was developed to highlight, illustrate, and implement the linkages between models and data. The course focuses on a mechanistic simulation approach, which is visual and involves as little calculus as possible in order to bridge the gap between 'observers' and 'modelers'. Simulation models are good educational tools; they can provide an intuitive, hands-on analysis of (plant-pathogen) systems. They are powerful tools to synthesize and integrate quantitative information in the biological sciences. The technique, which has been used for decades in various fields of ecological and agricultural sciences, is derived from the concepts of systems analysis and makes use of numerical integration. This approach allows identifying key processes that govern a dynamic system by analyzing the effects of the components of a system on its behavior (e.g., the dynamics of an epidemic), and exploring “futures” through scenario analyses. This course first introduces basic concepts and simple examples of systems analysis and simulation modeling. It then focuses on plant disease epidemics and crop yield losses. Simulation models are provided to explore model structures, their behavior, and the effect of key parameters (at the sub-process level) on system (process level) dynamics. This material is primarily intended for graduate students, but also for undergraduate students and any biologist who wishes to gain some exposure to simulation modeling applied to ecological systems.

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