Dr. Greg Kiker

Ecological Modeling and Management

The focus of Greg Kiker's career is the ecological modeling and management of natural systems. He has studied management of elephants in South Africa's Kruger National Park and water distribution on the Hillsborough River in Tampa, Florida. These may seem like unrelated problems, but they have a lot in common. In both cases, and many others that Kiker works on, the problem centers on management of a natural resources.

Management means making decisions, acting on those decisions, and achieving results. Kiker is interested in every aspect of this process. He collects and analyzes data from natural systems. He develops options for decision-makers and explains the consequences. He has studied the decision-making process itself extensively. As a final touch, he studies the uncertainty in every stage of the process, beginning with the accuracy of the original data.

Kiker is especially interested in so-called "wicked problems." First identified in the late 1960s, wicked problems have many factors and high-stakes solutions, full of economic and political implications --- often with time limits. Over the years, Kiker has developed the skills and analytical tools to tackle tough problems as the scale and complexity of his projects has steadily grown.

Kruger National Park managers must confront daily the numerous issues facing their elephants, while thinking ahead to upcoming seasons. To help park managers, Kiker developed a computer program called QnD:EleSim, which stands for Questions and Decisions -- Elephant Simulation. Kiker used this computer software to develop a model of the Kruger National Park, creating a game that managers can play. Despite the word "game", the inner workings of QnD:EleSim are very sophisticated and give managers a user-friendly way of manipulating a great deal of data with very advanced simulation and decision tools.

He has worked on the battle between Florida and Georgia over the management of the Apalachicola-Chatahoochee-Flint Rivers (ACF), which supplies water in northwestern Florida and is critical to the Florida oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. He has also worked on water management in southwest Florida that affects both the Everglades and Florida's extensive cattle industry. Kiker has worked with several other ABE faculty to develop management strategies for Tampa Bay Water, the authority that grew out of the Florida West Coast's own water wars.

To each of these, Kiker has brought the full range of his understanding of problems -- wicked and otherwise. Water-related issues are slow moving crises. They develop over a long period of time and provoke lengthy discussions and negotiations. In the meantime, the situation continues to change, often for the worse. This is the kind of challenge Kiker wants to help manage. He describes a process of adaptive management based on improving the communication between all parties involved and increasing their understanding of what drives the problem.

Teaching

  • AOM 4643/6932: Principles and Issues in Environmental Hydrology
  • ABE 5643C: Biological Systems Simulation

Research

  • Ecosystem and Hydrological Modeling for South Florida and Southern African Ecosystems
  • Simulation of Beef Cattle Farming Systems for Ecological and Enterprise Sustainability
  • Food/Ecology/Marine System Integration into Decision Support and Scenario Analysis Systems for the Caribbean Region
  • Adaptive Management Tools for Making Decisions with Uncertain Information
  • Decision Support and Analysis for Sediment/Dredging Management and Ecosystem Restoration

Greg Kiker - Professor