I started my Master’s thesis work with no mathematical modeling experience – just enthusiasm and a strong belief that anyone can learn anything they want to with the right resources and support.
The DEB Model
During Spring 2018, I spent a lot of time reading Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) papers and some more general materials about the modelling process. DEB theory is a well-established way of modelling the flow of mass or energy through an organism from feeding or photosynthesizing to maintenance, growth, maturation, and reproduction. Just getting a handle on the underlying theory of this kind of model was challenging at first. Taking an online course about the basics of the theory helped orient me. Toward the end of Spring 2018, I worked to code an already published Eastern Oyster DEB model. I enjoyed the trial and error of problem solving code though there were definitely moments where I questioned whether the code would ever run. Getting the first model outputs that looked reasonable was a thrilling moment.
Canadian Excursion in the Name of Science!
During Summer 2018, I joined my graduate advisor Austin Humphries to travel to Moncton in Canada for a week to meet with Dr. Romain Lavaud who has been working on a DEB model for sea lettuce. We were super grateful that he took time to help us understand concepts and demonstrate how his code runs. Dr. Lavaud agreed to work with us on the sugar kelp DEB model, and we are excited to continue collaborating with him. At the end of the week, we got to be tourists, and I was pumped to see the tide change at the Bay of Fundy (a goal I set as a small ocean nerd). Through the rest of the summer and into the fall semester, I have been working to build a comprehensive list of model assumptions and potential parameter values from the literature for our sugar kelp model, while polishing my thesis proposal.
Written by: Celeste Venolia