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Computational Models of Environmental Governance

a person crossing Boise state friendship bridge with river and a setting sunAbstract

Using agent-based models to understand social-ecological system dynamics

The Project

People come together as groups to manage shared environmental resources with varying degrees of success. Elinor Ostrom first identified a set of characteristics, or design principles, common to effective environmental governance. These design principles are products of cultural evolution – they are embodied by behaviors that individuals transmit to each other via social learning. Relatively little research has explicitly examined the cultural evolution of the design principles. This project uses a set of agent-based models to examine:

  1. how different combinations of principles interact to contribute to environmental governance in various biophysical and social contexts, and
  2. how the design principles coevolve over time with each other and in response to environmental change.

This computational approach provides an important complement to existing case-study based approaches because it allows for a systematic evaluation of different combinations of design principles typically not found in the empirical record. Further, the computational models link endogenous social dynamics, or cultural evolutionary processes, with environmental change, filling a critical gap in our understanding of socio-environmental systems.

The Team

Vicken Hillis, Boise State University

Tim Waring, University of Maine
Jeremy Brooks, Ohio State University