Environmental Practice


COMMENTARY: Cooperative Modeling Lessons for Environmental Management

Kristan  Cockerill  a1 c1 , Vincent C.  Tidwell  a2 , Howard D.  Passell  a2 and Leonard A.  Malczynski  a2
a1 Sustainable Development Program, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
a2 Geosciences and Environment Center, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Article author query
cockerill k   [Google Scholar] 
tidwell vc   [Google Scholar] 
passell hd   [Google Scholar] 
malczynski la   [Google Scholar] 


Environmental practitioners may find cooperative modeling an effective tool to address complex environmental management needs. The method involves convening a multidisciplinary team to collaboratively construct a system dynamics model. Advances in computational tools have made this technique increasingly effective because the process and the product allow individuals to better understand the complexity inherent in the system being studied. The authors describe four cooperative modeling projects and document some of the “lessons learned” from these experiences. Two of these projects were largely academic and team members were all professionals who agreed to work together to build a model. The other two teams were convened to contribute to water management processes. One of these emanated from a regional planning exercise and the team included professionals and volunteers from the public. The final project team presented includes professionals, members of the public, and government agency personnel. Like any multidisciplinary effort, the teams encountered communication challenges. The overarching lessons derived from these efforts are that teams can never pay too much attention to group dynamics and that the proximity to a “real” management decision does influence the cooperative modeling process. Recommendations to others embarking on a cooperative modeling effort include reviewing the literature regarding previous projects; establishing clear guidelines for team interaction early in the project; and remaining flexible, to allow the project to evolve.

(Received April 10 2006)
(Revised January 17 2007)
(Accepted February 15 2007)

c1 Address correspondence to: Kristan Cockerill, Assistant Director for Research, Sustainable Development Program, Appalachian State University, ASU Box 32080, Boone, NC 28608-2080; (fax) 828-262-6400; (e-mail) cockerillkm@appstate.edu